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Interview with Eric Johnson, April 5, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:45 - Early Life / House of Representatives

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Partial Transcript: You have had a long and successful career in Georgia politics despite not being a native Georgian.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his early life growing up in Louisiana. He discusses going to Tulane University and becoming an architect. He says that he moved to Savannah, Georgia and became interested in politics as a way of meeting new people. Johnson also discusses his time in the Georgia House of Representatives where he served for one term.

Keywords: Herman Talmadge; Jack Kingston; Joe Frank Harris; Mack Mattingly; Newt Gingrich; Saxby Chambliss; Tom Bordeaux; Tom Murphy

00:08:54 - Georgia Senate

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Partial Transcript: But I would like to ask you this, after serving a term in the House of Representatives, how was service in the Senate different?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his transition from the Georgia House of Representatives to the Georgia Senate. He says that he felt like it was harder to be heard in the House, preferring the Senate because it is smaller. He recalls working with Paul Brown on the House Industries Committee. Johnson discusses going from being the minority leader of the Senate to being the President Pro Tempore.

Keywords: Clay Land; Johnny Iskason; Pierre Howard; Sally Newbell; Tom Murphy; whip

00:19:55 - Sonny Perdue governor race / Party switching

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Partial Transcript: We have what we call game changers, which I refer to frequently in my conversations with great Georgians.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses Sonny Perdue switching to the Republican party, and his win against Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes in the 2000 gubernatorial race. Johnson also talks about other senators switching parties, resulting in an eventual Republican majority in the Senate.

Keywords: Charles Walker; Dan Lee; Jack Hill; Johnny Isakson; Pierre Howard; Zell Miller

00:29:45 - Johnson's Book / 1966 Election

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Partial Transcript: Well you've written a an interesting and I think very compelling history of the Georgia Republican Party entitled The Georgia Republican Party: 150 Years to Victory.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses a book he wrote called The Georgia Republican Party: 150 Years to Victory. He also discusses how the 1966 election for governor strengthened the Republican party because voters were upset that the Democratic Georgia Senate elected a governor that had not gotten the majority of the votes. He also talks about things that hurt the Republican party such as Watergate.

Keywords: Abraham Lincoln; Bob Urban; Glenn Richardson; Jimmy Carter; John Lender; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; operation breakthrough; race; succession

00:44:01 - Newt Gingrich / Redistricting of Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about Newt Gingrich.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his relationship with Newt Gingrich and describes him as an aggressive leader. Johnson also talks about the redistricting of Georgia, which lead to Republicans taking over the Georgia House of Representatives and Glenn Richardson becoming the Speaker of the House. Johnson then talks about the election of Paul Coverdell to the U.S. Senate in 1992.

Keywords: Bob Urban; Bobby Kahn; John Lender; Roy Barnes; gerrymandering

00:51:10 - Running for Governor / Tea Party

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Partial Transcript: Okay, let's get down to the situation where you are thinking about running for higher office.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his run for governor of Georgia against Nathan Deal and Karen Handle in 2010. He says that he was surprised that Nathan Deal defeated Karen Handle. Johnson also describes the Tea Party in Georgia, explaining that its members were originally just people who were "mad at the system."

Keywords: Casey Cagel; Senate Pro Tempore; education reform; special education; tort reform

01:00:44 - Reflections on political career

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Partial Transcript: As you look back over your career, of what are you most proud?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson reflects on his political career and says that he is most proud of getting a special needs education voucher program passed. He says that he has a lot of respect for the founding fathers like George Washington and John Adams who put their country first.

Keywords: Jack Kingston; Mack Mattingly; Nathan Deal; Newt Gingrich; Ronald Reagan; Roy Barnes; education reform; immigration; media; talk radio; taxes; term limits