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Interview with Keith Mason, November 18, 2008

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:07 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: I’m Bob Short and this is Reflections on Georgia Politics sponsored by the Richard B. Russell Library at the University of Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Bob Short introduces special guest Keith Mason.

00:00:30 - Childhood / Introduction to politics

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Partial Transcript: You’ve had a long and successful career in politics including serving as a top aid to Governor Zell Miller and as an assistant to President Bill Clinton.

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about growing up in Snellville, Ga. He recalls how his first introduction to politics was when his uncle, Jimmy Mason, ran for the State House of Representatives. Ever since then, Mason has followed Georgia politics closely.

Keywords: Bo Callaway; Gwinett County; Jimmy Mason; Lester Maddox; Marist School; Snellville, Ga; State Highway Department; State House of Representatives; University of Georgia

00:04:52 - Political campaigns / Involvement in Zell Miller's campaign

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember your first political campaign?

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about his first political campaigns he was involved in. He was involved in his uncle and his father's campaign. Mason also mentions volunteering in Jimmy Carter's race for governor in 1970. He recalls being the 10th congressional district coordinator for Zell Miller's race for lieutenant governor.

Keywords: Jimmy Carter; Sam Nunn; Zell Miller; campaigns; volunteer

00:09:43 - 1980 Senate race

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Partial Transcript: And you also had some experience working with Lieutenant Governor Miller in the senate.

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about the 1980 Senate race, and he talks about his involvement in Zell Miller's campaign.

Keywords: 1980; Dick Morris; Herman Talmadge; Mack Mattingly; US Senate; Zell Miller; race

00:14:38 - Miller's race for Governor

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Partial Transcript: You know Zell Miller very well.

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about Zell Miller's race for Governor in 1990. He recalls the difficulties of the campaign such as: reintroducing the image of Zell Miller to the state, lack of notable accomplishments, and Miller's interest in a wide variety of issues. Mason later mentions James Carville and Paul Begala's involvement in the campaign.

Keywords: Andrew Young; Johnny Isakson; accomplishments; confidence; educational system; governor; gubernatorial campaign; higher education; issues; lottery; maverick

00:23:56 - Role as executive secretary / Governor Miller and Speaker Murphy

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Partial Transcript: So you became his executive secretary?

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about his job as executive secretary for Governor Zell Miller. He also recalls how hectic it was the first few months of Governor Miller's term. Mason later talks about the contentious relationship between Governor Miller and Speaker Murphy.

Keywords: Olympics; Tom Murphy; administration; executive secretary; lottery; sales tax

00:28:02 - Georgia Lottery / HOPE Scholarship

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Partial Transcript: Some people thought that Miller would hurt himself by pushing a lottery.

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about the promotion of the education lottery and the difficulties it created in Zell Miller's campaign. He later talks about how the lottery was passed in 1992. Mason also talks about the HOPE Scholarship.

Keywords: HOPE Scholarship; University of Georgia; anti-establishment; business; campaign; families; higher education; lottery; state flag

00:33:14 - Zell Miller and Bill Clinton

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Partial Transcript: Back to 1992 while you were campaigning to pass the lottery you were also campaigning for Bill Clinton.

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about how important Miller was for Bill Clinton's successful run for president. He later reflects on Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign. Mason recalls how Georgia was turning into more of a Republican state in the 1990s.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; Bob Dole; Newt Gingrich; Super Tuesday; Walter Mondale; presidential politics; w

00:42:03 - Recession / Reelection / Changing of state flag

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Partial Transcript: Let’s go back for a minute to Governor Miller’s first term.

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about how the Miller administration fixed the budget in order to combat the recession that was happening. A special summer session was called in order to pass the new budget. Mason later recalls Miller's reelection campaign, and he talks about the failure of changing the state flag.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; Governor; HOPE programs; budget; campaign; confederate; recession; reelection; state flag; term; zig-zag

00:51:51 - Highway Commission

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Partial Transcript: Well we both know Zell Miller and we both know that he knew and still knows how to use political power.

Segment Synopsis: Mason shares a story of when Miller used his executive power at a meeting in order to change who would be in charge of the highway commission.

Keywords: Hal Reeves; Speaker Murphy; Tom Murphy; Wayne Shackleford; budget; highway commission

00:59:01 - Legacy of Governor Miller / Senatorial appointment

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Partial Transcript: Governor Miller left office in December of 1998.

Segment Synopsis: Mason and Short talk about how popular Zell Miller was during his 8 year tenure. They talk about his greatest legacy was the HOPE Scholarship. Later Mason talks about how Miller was chosen to succeed Senator Paul Coverdell when he died suddenly.

Keywords: Mack Mattingly; Max Cleland; Paul Begala; Paul Coverdell; Roy Barnes; US Senate; appointment; approval rating

01:11:23 - Zell Miller in the US Senate

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Partial Transcript: Well Keith you perhaps more than anyone I know can explain Senator Miller’s conduct in the United States Senate.

Segment Synopsis: Mason expresses how Senator Miller was not happy as a Senator. He was taken out of a decision making role which displeased him.

01:13:47 - Mason's work in the White House / Hillary Clinton

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Partial Transcript: Well Keith you perhaps more than anyone I know can explain Senator Miller’s conduct in the United States Senate

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about his role as deputy assistant to the president for the intergovernmental affairs. He worked with governors and the President on national issues. Mason also talks about Hillary's role in the administration.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; Department of Interior; EPA; Hillary Clinton; West Wing; candidate; government; governors; intergovernmental affairs; presidential campaign

01:22:07 - Party politics in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let’s talk for a minute about local party politics in Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Mason shares his opinion on the state of local party politics in Georgia. He believes that the Democratic Party was vulnerable in the early 2000's because of the lack of strong candidates.

Keywords: Democratic Party; Republican Party; minorities; party politics; shift