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Interview with Harry Geisinger, July 14, 2010

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:19 - Introduction

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

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Bob Short introduces interviewee Harry Geisinger.

00:00:39 - Early life / Military service

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Partial Transcript: With your permission, Harry, we would like to divide our conversation into two or three parts.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger speaks about growing up in the Midwest and serving in the Navy before moving to Georgia for business opportunities.

Keywords: Advertising agency; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; College; Consulting; Deferment; Deployment; Family business; Howard "Bo" Callaway; Korean War; Lincoln College; Mediterranean; Military draft; Navigation; Pacific; Radio; Texas; Textile mills; U.S. Army; U.S. Navy; U.S.S. Roanoke; University of Cincinnati; WGST; WKLS; World War II; Yankee

00:04:35 - Entering politics

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Partial Transcript: How did you get interested in politics?

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger indicates that he was influenced by his politically conservative father and describes entering politics as a campaign manager for Congressman Ben Blackburn.

Keywords: ACA rating; ADA rating; AJC; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Ben Blackburn; Campaign; Campaign manager; Conservative; DeKalb County; Democrats; Doraville, Georgia; FDR; Fourth district; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Goldwater campaign; Harry Truman; James C. Davis; Jimmy Mackie; Liberal; Moderate; Precinct leader; Republican; Roscoe Pickett; Socialized medicine; U.S. Congress; Union Carbide

00:09:45 - Rise of the Republican party in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about the Goldwater years for a minute.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger discusses the factors that led to the emergence of the Republican party in Georgia in the 1960s.

Keywords: Barry Goldwater Sr.; Bob Gould; County unit system; Ellis Arnall; George W. Smith; Governor; Jim Tysinger; Legislative agenda; Lyndon B. Johnson; One man, one vote; Reapportionment; Sewage; Stan Collins; Standard-bearer; Statewide office; Three governors controversy; Transportation; Write-in candidate

00:14:46 - Transportation issues in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: The...the first year that the MARTA issue came to the forefront.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger recalls funding and other issues MARTA faced at its onset and suggests that MARTA's limitations has stunted Georgia's economic growth.

Keywords: Chattahoochee River; Cobb County, Georgia; Colonial Hills; Economic growth; Fulton County, Georgia; Homeowners; Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority; Property tax; Sales tax; Segregation; Transportation

00:17:05 - Challenges of serving in Congress

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Partial Transcript: This recession that we're in is, uh, is not gonna end tomorrow.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger discusses some of the challenges of serving in the House, including balancing the budget, furloughs, and long legislative sessions.

Keywords: Balanced budget; Bonding; Caucus; Committee days; Deficit; Furlough; George L. Smith; Georgia Constitution; Lester Maddox; Minority whip; Projected budget; Salary; State budget

00:21:37 - Changing demographics in Georgia House

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Partial Transcript: The, uh, Voters Rights Act has had an impact on politics in Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger speaks about the growing diversity of Georgia's politicians, as evidenced in various caucuses within the House.

Keywords: African-Americans; Bibb County, Georgia; Bipartisan; Black caucus; Chatham County, Georgia; Georgia state flag; Gerald Talmadge Horton; Grace Hamilton; Hispanic-Americans; Janet B. Scarborough Merritt; Macon, Georgia; Marietta, Georgia; Rural Georgia; Sidney Marcus; Urban Georgia; Urban caucus; Women in politics

00:25:04 - Running for governor

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Partial Transcript: After reapportionment, DeKalb went from three to fifteen, and your party, the Republican party, won three of those seats.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger discusses an unsuccessful run in the Republican gubernatorial primary, which Busbee ultimately won.

Keywords: Bert Lance; Bobby Rowan; George Busbee; Harry Jackson; Maddox Hale; Mercer University; Political debates; Population growth; Republican primary; Speaker pro tempore; Tom Murphy

00:30:35 - Work after first leaving the House

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Partial Transcript: So you left the House, you didn't quite make it to the governor's office; what happened then?

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger speaks about his career after first leaving politics, which left him heavily in debt.

Keywords: Ad agency; Carter years; Coal brokerage; Consumer buying service; Cumberland River; Dams; Debt; Fundraising; Grand Ole Opry Hotel; Hydrofacility; Interest rates; Jimmy Carter; Mack Mattingly; Ronald Reagan; Second mortgage; Southeastern Power; TVA; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:33:49 - Forged election ballots / Voter laws

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about that 1980 senatorial election.

Segment Synopsis: Geisenger recalls several instances of ballots being stolen or hijacked by politically motivated individuals, often in local elections, and states that voter ID laws should be strengthened to prevent fraud.

Keywords: Ballot; Ballot security; Dawson Mathis; Electronic voting; Gangbusters; Header card; Herman Talmadge; Motor voter; Norman Underwood; Paper trail; Paul Coverdell; Poll watcher; Power brokers; Security; Voter fraud; Voter identification law; Voter registration; Votomatic machine; Zell Miller

00:41:25 - Changes in the legislature / Horse racing in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: So in nineteen--sorry, 2004, you came back to the legislature.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger describes some of the changes that came to the House between his stints in office and speaks in favor of horse racing as a means of bringing jobs and education funding to the state.

Keywords: Administration; Board of Education; Budget cuts; Churchill Downs; Classrooms; Construction; Conyers, Georgia; Education; Farmers; Fireplace; HOPE scholarship; Horse racing; Horse track; House chamber; Job creation; Kentucky; Legislative counsel; Parmutuel racing; Private money; Revenue; Smoking; Steno pool; Stenographers; Teachers; Teaching; Technology; University of Georgia Agriculture School; University of Georgia Veterinary College; White-Out

00:49:33 - Current economic issues in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: I started to tell you about this issue of knowing how many horses were passing through Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger speaks more about introducing horse racing as an economic stimulus to the state and discusses more of the economic troubles facing Georgia.

Keywords: Agricultural commissioner; Arlington Park; Auto parts; Betting; Equestrian sports; Florida; Frank Stronach; Gambling; Horse tracks; Ivan Allen Jr.; Magna International; Rawson Haverty; South Georgia; Unemployment

00:55:05 - Term limits / Illegal immigration

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Partial Transcript: What do you think of four-year terms for members of the House of Representatives?

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger suggests that term limits for Congressional members has led to inefficiencies in their governments and speaks about Georgia's tough illegal immigration legislation.

Keywords: Arizona; Assimilation; Bilingual; Citizens; Drug cartels; Georgia Senate; Georgia illegal immigration bill; Illegal immigrants; Immigration; Limited terms; Mexico; Reapportionment; Spanish

01:03:02 - The Tea Party

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Partial Transcript: Harry, there's political unrest in the country, as you know.

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger opines that the Tea Party is enfranchising citizens of both political parties to become engaged in government and hold elected officials accountable for their actions and voting records.

Keywords: Constituents; Federal government; Fulton County courthouse; Georgia State University; Georgia state capitol; Incumbent; Tea Party Movement; Washington, D.C.

01:06:39 - Comradery among Republicans

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Partial Transcript: One of the things I wanted to mention to you was back in the old days--the poorer days of the Republican party, when we were just beginning to make motions...

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger recalls staging sketch comedy bits with fellow Republicans when the party was still a small minority in the state.

Keywords: Callaway Gardens; Farkle Family; Inauguration; Richard Nixon; Rowan & Martin Laugh-In

01:08:28 - Achievements and disappointments

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Partial Transcript: Looking back over your career, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger states that he believes his greatest achievements are to come, emphasizing his work on pari mutuel wagering legislation, and indicates that he prefers not to focus on disappointments and missed opportunities.

Keywords: Ad velorum tax; Aiken, South Carolina; Automobile sales; Birthday tax; Colt; DMV; Department of Motor Vehicles; Department of Revenue; Gestational period; Horse breeding; Keeneland; Revenue neutral; Theft; Title tax; Vehicle sales; Ways and Means

01:18:17 - Dispute over water rights

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Partial Transcript: Harry, when our great-great grandchildren go over to the Russell Library to research Harry Geisinger, how would you like--how would want to be remembered?

Segment Synopsis: Geisinger indicates that a mistake made by surveyors when drawing the border between Georgia and Tennessee has resulted in Tennessee controlling important water reserves that he suggests should belong to Georgia.

Keywords: Alabama; Boundary lines; Chattahoochee River; Cherokee Indians; GPS; Google maps; Japanese Public Television; National forest; Nickajack Lake; North Carolina; Tenn Tom River; Tennessee River; Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway; Tom Bevel; Water rights; White settlers

01:24:25 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Well Harry, it's been a great pleasure.

Segment Synopsis: Short and Geisinger concude the interview.