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Checkmate Government Relations: strategic, influential, premier North Carolina lobbying, expertise in legislation, policy adv

Ches McDowell

Managing Partner

Charles F. McDowell IV – “Ches” – leads Checkmate’s team and focuses primarily on the North Carolina General Assembly and the North Carolina Congressional Delegation.

 

He has delivered victories for clients in health care, financial services, entertainment, technology, outdoor sports, aviation,municipal government, nonprofits, state-wide associations, elections, energy, pharmaceuticals, real estate development, gaming, and professional sports.

He has been selected as one of the top 10 lobbyists in North Carolina by the North State Journal – every year they have done the poll – and has received honorable mentions for representing a diverse portfolio.

Ches was recognized by The Best Lawyers in America® in 2023 and 2024 for Government Relations Practice. He was selected by Triad Business Journal as one of its “40 Leaders Under 40” in 2021. Ches was recognized as a “Young Gun” in 2019 by Business North Carolina magazine.

 

Ches’ career began while he was earning an undergraduate degree at North Carolina State. He became one of the only college students to work full time at the legislature, where he managed various projects for State Senate Leader Phil Berger.

Checkmate Government Relations: strategic, influential, premier North Carolina lobbying, expertise in legislation, policy adv
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Nelson Freeman

Partner & Chief Operating Officer

Nelson Freeman is Checkmate’s chief operating officer, ensuring every client gets the service they deserve. He also is a seasoned government affairs professional who has represented a myriad of clients before Congress as well as the North Carolina legislature and executive branch.

 

Nelson’s policy expertise is financial services, emerging technology, and energy. His background as both a tax policy advisor for the Speaker of the North Carolina House and a legislative liaison for the Department of Revenue have helped him deliver advocacy victories for nationally chartered banks, state chartered banks, electronic transaction corporations, and financial technology (FinTech) start-ups, as well as clients benefiting from energy and environmental incentives. Nelson has shepherded legislation across the governor’s desk to enhance the tax climate, corporate governance environment, and lending opportunities for numerous clients.

 

Nelson also worked nearly a decade for Safari Club International (SCI), a membership advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. He managed SCI’s entire public affairs program—including in-house lobbyists, external lobbying firms, and public relations consultants—and acted as an industry wide coordinator for international, national, and state-based lobbying. Nelson has been recognized as one of the top 25 lobbyists in North Carolina by the North State Journal.

Checkmate Government Relations: strategic, influential, premier North Carolina lobbying, expertise in legislation, policy adv

Fritz Vaughan

Partner & Director of National Strategy

Frederick W. Vaughan – “Fritz” – brings two decades of experience in law and politics to help clients achieve policy and business objectives at the national, federal, and state levels. His experience in all three branches of federal government and in the private sector, as well as his regular engagement with governors, lieutenant governors, state attorneys general, and state legislators across the country, enable Fritz to see the whole board and execute strategies for complex issues across jurisdictions and multiple levels of government.

Fritz combines this experience and perspective with substantive knowledge to advise clients on policy risks and opportunities that may impact their bottom line and to deliver persuasive advocacy to key policymakers and regulators. He has partnered with clients across a number of highly regulated industries, including financial services, gaming, agriculture, energy, and life sciences.

Fritz’s experience in government includes serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Senior Counsel for the Committee on Financial Services of the U.S. House of Representatives, Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, and as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Loretta A. Preska, Chief Judge, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He also has worked on and advised multiple presidential and congressional campaigns.

 

In addition to his government and political experience, Fritz has helped clients address high-stakes issues in private legal practice, where he focused on white collar and securities litigation and regulatory investigations and corporate governance matters in the New York City and Washington, D.C. offices of an international law firm. While attending the University of Georgia.

While attending the University of Georgia School of Law, he was Editor in Chief of the Georgia Law Review. He received his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University.

Checkmate Government Relations: strategic, influential, premier North Carolina lobbying, expertise in legislation, policy adv
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Hampton Billips

Partner & Government Relations Director

Hampton Billips is Checkmate’s resident appropriations expert, which means he leads many of our clients’ budget requests before the North Carolina General Assembly.

 

Hampton has helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriations for numerous clients and played an integral role in passing legislation key to clients expanding their business in North Carolina.

Previously, Hampton worked for North Carolina Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown. Prior to his time at the General Assembly, Hampton worked at Randolph Cloud and Associates, an advocacy, government relations, and not-for-profit management consulting firm in Raleigh.

 

A proud graduate of North Carolina State University, Hampton played football as a defensive lineman and was honored as a North Carolina State University Caterpillar Scholar Athlete.

Checkmate Government Relations: strategic, influential, premier North Carolina lobbying, expertise in legislation, policy adv

John Easterling

Partner & Government Relations Director

John Easterling is a lobbyist with a strong background as a political operative – excelling in public affairs and political campaigns at every level before joining the Checkmate team. He advocates fiercely and effectively before legislators and executive branch officials at all levels and closely monitors and researches policy developments relevant to clients on an array of issues.

In North Carolina, John has helped secure more than $100 million in local investment from the state in one budget cycle. He serves on the Board of Directors of the NC Legislative Black Caucus Foundation, on the NC State Board of Refrigeration Contractors, and as Chairman of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Caucus.  He also is a former member of the NC Democratic Party State Executive Council and served two terms as President of the College Democrats of North Carolina.

When serving clients nationally, John draws on his experience as a member of the National Black Professional Lobbyists Association and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, as well as his prior service on the Finance Committee for the Democratic Governors Association.

Checkmate Government Relations: strategic, influential, premier North Carolina lobbying, expertise in legislation, policy adv

Lauren Henderson

Partner & Chief of Staff

A former public school teacher, Lauren Henderson is an expert in earth sciences. Prior to joining Checkmate, Lauren was a chemist at Mother Murphy’s – and her background in earth sciences, biology, and chemistry give her a unique perspective on health care, biotechnology, agricultural, and environmental issues.

 

She focuses her practice in the pharmaceutical, health care, biosciences, biotechnology, agricultural, energy, environment, and consumer products industries, primarily lobbying before the North Carolina General Assembly. 

Checkmate Government Relations: strategic, influential, premier North Carolina lobbying, expertise in legislation, policy adv

Ali Briggs

Government Relations Advisor

Ali has been formally trained in health care and focuses her practice in health care, biosciences, biotechnology, and consumer products industries.

 

She represents a wide variety of clients, assists clients with an array of state government relations issues, and advocates on their behalf before both the North Carolina General Assembly and the United States Congress.

Checkmate Government Relations: strategic, influential, premier North Carolina lobbying, expertise in legislation, policy adv

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