NASHVILLE (AP) — The man who has successfully helped Republican candidates in Tennessee bring in donations for more than four decades is stepping away from the prominent role.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/ZRvrNz) reports that 79-year-old Ted Welch, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease last year, will no longer play the fundraiser extraordinaire for the dominate political party in the state.
Prominent Republicans helped by Welch's fundraising prowess include U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker — as well as former office holders like Sens. Howard Baker, Bill Brock, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson.
Welch's volunteer role with the GOP stemmed from a belief in fiscal conservatism.
"I don't know anyone in our national party over the last 40 years who's been more successful as a fundraiser and who has been more unselfish in giving his time and his money to help other people without ever asking for anything in return," Alexander said.
Welch became a necessary stop for Republicans seeking a statewide office.
"If you've ever thought about running for politics in 30 years and you have not gone to have a conversation with Ted, you're not doing it right," said Bryan Kaegi, Alexander's fundraiser and a Welch admirer.
"Persistence," said Stephen Smith, Alexander's current finance chairman, recounting his Welch's approach. "Most people fail in their jobs because they don't keep trying. He might get 100 straight 'No's,' but he kept making the calls."
Haslam met with Welch when he decided to run for governor.
"He was definitely one of the first people I went to see.
"Because there are giving limits, you have to have a lot of donors to make a campaign work," the governor said. "Most people need to be asked, and most people don't like to ask other people for money. Ted knew it was part of the process."
Corker said many GOP lawmakers, himself included, wouldn't be in office if it weren't for Welch's help.
"When you travel around the country and bump into other people that have been involved in the way that he is, almost all of them ask about Ted Welch," he said. "He's really almost a legend."
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.