There are few candidate wives in Tennessee history who literally navigated the campaign trail like Maria Lee.
Much of it was in an RV older than her decade-long marriage to Bill Lee, but it was just one part of the prominent roles she played in her husband’s road to the governor’s office.
When he began what was considered a longshot gubernatorial campaign in early 2017, it was often his wife Maria who popped out of the RV first as the couple drove to the state’s 95 counties.
At hundreds of campaign events over the next year and a half, she was almost always there with her husband, and the candidate made sure every audience knew it.
“She has been right there beside me, and this is not a one-person job, this running for governor,” Bill Lee would often say after introducing his wife within moments of each appearance.
His campaign featured Maria prominently in ads like no other spouse in recent Tennessee political history, but her role was more than just about appearances.
She probably shook as many hands as her husband.
Bill Lee has been very open about the role Maria played after his first wife died after being thrown from a horse.
He made an emotional tribute to her while meeting with outgoing Governor Bill Haslam the day after the election.
“She has shown me every day how to love with your heart and all of your strength and your spirit and your mind,” Bill Lee said before a Capitol Hill room full of supporters and reporters. “She has certainly done that for me, and she will do that for the people of Tennessee as well.”
Clearly, we will hear more about Maria Lee as she becomes the first lady.