Broadcaster Tommy McFly and G.O.P. Senate candidate Chrys Kefalas discuss their engagement, morning radio, the campaign trail and Donald Trump.
By Virginia Coyne
They met at a group dinner with friends in July of 2013 (a date Chrys Kefalas says is forever etched in his mind), Tommy McFly proposed in May of 2015 (although he waited to announce it on the air until November so as to not interfere with Kefalas’ campaign announcement) and one can only hope they’ll have a thoroughly modern version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (Kefalas comes from a Greek family in Baltimore and his grandmother makes stuffed grape leaves for his campaign events.)
Kefalas is the vice president of executive communications for the National Association of Manufacturers, although he’s taking a break to run for Barbara Mikulski’s U.S. Senate seat in Maryland. His platform includes bolstering manufacturing jobs, innovating education and ending the war on drugs.
McFly, whose real last name is Pavlik, is the popular host of “The Tommy Show,” which airs weekday mornings on 94.7 FRESH FM. From the station’s new studios near Nationals Park, which are equipped with a television camera, McFly also reports on music and celebrities for WUSA9’s “Great Day Washington.” The busy duo sat for a rare interview together at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Washington Life: How has the campaign changed your lives and your relationship?
Tommy McFly: We’ve gotten way better at using calendars. Our [Google] calendar is a multi-colored, multi-layered, overlapping menagerie of ridiculousness. But I think we’re still the same couple that we were. That we are. It’s just amped everything up. There’s definitely new pressure and new excitements and all those things that go along with it.
Chrys Kefalas: It hasn’t changed much. We’ve been both incredibly busy from really the moment we met — July 13, 2013 — not that I have that date etched in my mind [laughter] but life has been fast-paced from the minute we met. And it has continued.
McFly: One of the things I love about him is that he runs at the same pace that I do. We’re very well-matched in that we both have a ton going on at all times but we’ll drop anything for either one at a moment’s notice. There’s also a great mutual respect that we have.
WL: What is it like as a gay Republican on the campaign trail? When you are together, what kind of reaction do you get?
Kefalas: The only people who ask about who I love are actually journalists. I don’t’ get that question. I talk about Tommy on the campaign trail just like anybody else does. Things he likes, foods he doesn’t, what he does for a living. It isn’t a function of the campaign really.
WL: It’s not surprising to you, given that you are running as a Republican?
Kefalas: There’s a stereotype that exists about Republicans and I think we’re defeating that stereotype every day. People are changing. You know, if you look at society, it wasn’t just Republicans who were opposed to marriage equality. Democrats for a long time held that position and I think society is evolving. It’s wonderful to see it’s happening so rapidly. And we’re obviously seeing that every day in Maryland and wherever we go. Things are moving in the right direction and it’s touching everybody. And as more people’s lives are affected they see that what Tommy and I have and what we aspire to is what everyone else wants for their families. Minds change. Hearts change.
McFly: It really hasn’t come up. We’ve been to every nook and cranny of Maryland and people want to talk about jobs, they don’t care about our relationship. They don’t really want to talk to him about if we go on a date night or not. It’s surprising. It’s refreshing, it’s fun. I think I went into it a little wide-eyed as well. Being like “this is going to be great.” And it’s been better than I could have expected.
WL: Have you ever had Chrys on your show?
McFly: Chrys called in to my show once on my birthday, which surprised the heck out of me. And then he called in the day I announced my engagement on the air..
WL: As the campaign heats up do you envision having Chrys or both candidates on the show?
McFly: We really can’t. People come to us for jokes and Taylor Swift. I’m going to let Chris Matthews cover the hardball stuff. I talk about Chrys in the topic of our relationship on the air because he’s my fiancé, but no one wants to hear me talk about politics. D.C.’s got enough politics.
WL: What’s it like to have your relationship discussed on the air as you run for public office?
Kefalas: In fairness, I am a huge fan of his, but I hear what happens on the show from friends. I’ll tune into 99.1 or WBAL in the morning in Baltimore, so I get my news in the morning from other sources, then find out from my friends what’s happening on The Tommy Show.
WL: How and why did you decide to run and what kind of discussion did you have with Tommy?
Kefalas: Actually, I will flip the story. I was at an NAM board meeting and I get a text from Tommy. … Basically he had sent a link to the Washington Post article informing me of [Sen. Barbara] Mikulski’s retirement and he said “basically there are no questions. Just run.” in the text. And we started the exploration process there. He started this process and obviously together we’re going to finish it.
McFly: Just like … he understands me and he doesn’t listen to the radio, I know what he is, what he stands for, who he is, his background, his path, I feel everything he has done in his career, his life, all the people he has touched and all the things that he has done, have led up to this moment. This campaign is a very special moment that is a once in a lifetime opportunity that really is the perfect storm of everything that has to happen for him to be a United States senator. And this is not just him running this time to get name ID to maybe run another time. This is the moment. Any kind of book you read talks about having that moment in time, that special sauce, that perfect time and this is that perfect time.
WL: Let’s turn the conversation to Donald Trump…
Kefalas: I would not vote for Donald Trump if he was the nominee of the Republican party. That I guarantee you.
WL: You recently tweeted something along those lines that received a lot of buzz. Tell me about it.
Kefalas: Yeah, it was: if he wins the Republican nomination I’m going to change my slogan to “I’m with stupid.” That doesn’t mean I’d vote for Trump. It means that obviously he’d be the standard bearer of the party that I’m a part of. I stand by that.
WL: Do you have wedding plans in the works?
McFly: We haven’t started yet. Not until after the election in November.
This story appears in the February 2016 issue of Washington Life.