New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigns in Ashland, N.H., on Wednesday. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

This post has been updated:

Gov. Chris Christie has hired a seasoned Republican strategist to manage his nascent presidential campaign and has recruited other veteran operatives to round out a senior staff that also will include the top advisers who charted his rise in New Jersey.

Ken McKay, a well-regarded operative who previously has served as chief of staff at the Republican National Committee and as political director of the Republican Governors Association, has joined the Christie operation as campaign manager.

Joining McKay at the top of the Christie campaign is Maria Comella, the governor's longtime communications adviser and close confidante, who is becoming the campaign's chief messaging officer. Comella, who had been deputy chief of staff for communications and planning in the governor's office, will have a broad mandate on the campaign overseeing Christie's message, communications and brand.

Christie advisers provided a list of campaign staffing moves to The Washington Post.

Once considered a front-runner for the 2016 nomination, Christie is now far back in a crowded field and will be relying on a small campaign team to guide his comeback.

McKay will be overseeing the campaign's nuts-and-bolts political operations from the national headquarters in Morristown, N.J., while Comella will serve as Christie's right-hand adviser, often traveling with him and helping him hone his message and campaign trail performance.

As expected, Mike DuHaime, who guided Christie's successful 2009 and 2013 gubernatorial runs and held senior positions on the George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain presidential campaigns and at the Republican National Committee, will serve as the senior strategist and lead a team of outside consultants.


Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens as 6-year-old Kameron Theos asks if he can sit in Christie's White House chair if he wins the presidential election during a town hall style meeting Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in Ashland, N.H. Christie said that was the first time he was asked the question and said yes. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Russ Schriefer, who created the gubernatorial television advertisements that helped define the Christie brand, will be the campaign's lead media consultant. He is a veteran of presidential campaigns, most recently serving as senior adviser and media consultant on Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign. Larry Weitzner, who worked with Schriefer on media for Christie's 2009 and 2013 campaigns, will be another media consultant.

Adam Geller, who was Christie's lead pollster in both governor's races, will serve in the same capacity on the presidential campaign.

The governor's closest counselor and the gatekeeper to his political orbit, Bill Palatucci, will serve as the campaign's general counsel. Palatucci will oversee all legal aspects, including ballot access issues and delegate math during what could become a lengthy nominating contest.

Palatucci, who will remain as a fundraiser and all-around adviser, is uniquely suited for the legal position considering his years of experience on the RNC and on the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush presidential campaigns.

The senior staff combines advisers with personal histories with the governor and newcomers to the Christie orbit who bring experiences from past presidential campaigns as well as the technology sector.

"Governor Christie's 2016 campaign team combines a core group from his gubernatorial victories with an infusion of incredibly talented individuals who have worked at the highest levels in American politics," said DuHaime, who has recruited several former colleagues from the Giuliani campaign and the RNC onto the Christie team.

Some of Christie's team comes from the governor's office, where the top two aides who remain are chief of staff Regina Egea and chief counsel Christopher Porrino.

Ray Washburne, a Dallas investor and fundraising powerhouse who most recently served as the RNC's national finance chairman, will hold the title of national finance chairman for Christie's campaign. Other members of the finance committee are expected to be named in coming weeks.

Working with Washburne as fundraising director is Cam Henderson, who served as executive director of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund from 2012 to 2014 and before that was chief of staff to first lady Mary Pat Christie. Henderson has held more political positions, including as deputy campaign manager for Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign, working alongside DuHaime and Comella.

Christie has hired James Garcia as political director. During the 2012 presidential race, Garcia served as Romney's national field director during the primaries and as Colorado state manager in the general election. He most recently served as regional political director at the RNC.

Another relatively new addition to the Christie team is Samantha Smith, who will serve as communications director. She joined Christie's Leadership Matters for America PAC from Google, where she was a senior manager on the tech company's global communications and public policy team. She previously was a communications aide for Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) as well as on McCain's 2008 campaign.

The campaign's digital director will be Lauren Fritts, a former Fox News Channel employee who for the past four years has been digital communications director in the governor's office, where she managed Christie's active presence on YouTube and such social media as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.

The research and rapid response director will be Foster Morss, who has worked in the governor's office and previously served on Giuliani's campaign and at the RNC as a senior analyst and deputy research director.

Several former George W. Bush presidential campaign staffers have signed on with Christie as consultants. Brian Jones, a former RNC communications director who worked on the Romney, McCain and Bush campaigns, will be senior communications consultant.

Brent Seaborn, who led the groundbreaking microtargeting project during Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, will be Christie's voter targeting consultant.

Meanwhile, Kevin Shuvalov, a staffer on Bush's 2000 campaign and former RNC aide who has extensive experience in Iowa, will be the direct-mail consultant.  And Cary Evans, a former Bush and Giuliani adviser who now is based in Washington state and has experience in Nevada and other western states, will be the telemarketing consultant.

Christie plans to open campaign offices in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But his strategic focus is squarely on New Hampshire, which hosts the first-in-the-nation presidential primary and where he is beginning to build a robust staff.

Matt Mowers, a former Christie aide who moved to New Hampshire following the governor's 2013 reelection to become executive director of the state Republican Party, will serve as New Hampshire state director.

The New Hampshire political director will be Britt Carter, who spent the 2014 midterm campaign cycle in New Hampshire focused on building a modern, grass-roots field program for state Republicans. Matt Moroney, who has deep roots in New Hampshire and served as a field staffer for Romney in 2012 and gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein in 2014, will be New Hampshire operations director.

In Iowa, home to the first caucuses, Christie's campaign will be directed by Phil Valenziano, a longtime operative in the Hawkeye State. He served as political director on Gov. Terry Branstad's 2014 reelection campaign and as director of the governor's inauguration. In 2012, Valenziano served as Romney's Iowa field director for the caucuses and as New Hampshire state director in the general election. He will be joined in Iowa by state political director Kevin Poindexter, who has worked at the RNC and for Romney's 2012 campaign.

Christie's sanctioned super PAC, America Leads -- which has set a goal of raising $5 million to $6 million by the close of the fundraising quarter that ended June 30 -- recently announced its senior staff.

It will be led by Phil Cox, who is considered one of the country's top Republican strategists and most recently served as executive director of the Republican Governors Association while Christie was chairman.

The super PAC's advertising and media strategy will be overseen by Doug McAuliffe, a veteran of gubernatorial, Senate and House campaigns. Gene Ulm, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies whose clients include Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential nominee, will be the super PAC's pollster.

Tucker Martin, a longtime Virginia-based consultant who previously worked as former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell's communications director, will direct communications for the super PAC. Mike Leavitt, a former RNC chief of staff and veteran strategist who helped guide Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's underdog campaign in 2014, will handle direct mail.

The super PAC's fundraising will be overseen by Paige Hahn, who ran fundraising operations at the RGA from 2011 to 2014, during which the association raised a record $250 million. And Kurt Luidhardt, who has worked for Christie and other Republicans, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, will handle digital efforts.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Larry Weitzner's last name.