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Interview with Rusty Paul, September 14, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:33 - Civil Rights-era Alabama

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Partial Transcript: Why don't you go ahead and tell us a bit about your upbringing in Birmingham, Alabama?

Segment Synopsis: Paul describes his exposure to politics during his childhood in Alabama, primarily racial issues. He remembers seeing George Wallace give a speech in support of segregation, which pushed him away from the Democratic Party.

Keywords: Birmingham Southern University; Blunt County, Alabama; Bull Connor; Carl Sanders; Civil Rights Movement; Democrats; Ivan Allen, Jr.; Kelly Ingram Park; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Republican Party; Samford University; newspapers; political leadership; poll tax; steel industry

00:09:25 - Republican politics in DeKalb County

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Partial Transcript: How do you think you rationalized that?

Segment Synopsis: Paul talks about moving to Georgia and first getting involved with politics by volunteering on Jim Armstrong's campaign. He then discusses learning practical campaigning by working for Armstrong's faction of the Republican Party in DeKalb County.

Keywords: "retail politics"; DeKalb County Commissioner; Don Butler; Donald Trump; George Warren; Jim Kelly; Jimmy Carter; Tom Davidson; Tommy Tolbert; Walt Davis; conservative; partisanship; political center; presidential campaign

00:15:45 - State-level politics and campaigning

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Partial Transcript: So you're involved in local politics, a very grassroots introduction.

Segment Synopsis: Paul talks about being introduced to statewide politics in Georgia by being tasked by Matthew Patton to create a statewide party newspaper. He discusses observing the increasing relevancy of the Republican Party in Georgia politics.

Keywords: Atlanta Constitution; Bob Bell; Bob Shaw; Columbus, Georgia; George Busbee; George Warren; Georgia State University; Haskew Brantley; Jim Armstrong; Jim Tysinger; Jimmy Carter; Mack Mattingly; Paul Coverdell; Randolph Medlock; Rodney Cook; Stone Mountain, Georgia; Watergate scandal; campaign managing; state party

00:21:44 - 1980 election in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: 1980 rolls around, the Reagan campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Paul highlights some of the effects of the 1980 election in Georgia, namely Mack Mattingly's surprise victory for the U.S. Senate. He gives his thoughts on why Ronald Reagan political popularity in the state, despite running against Georgia governor Jimmy Carter.

Keywords: Ben Blackburn; Bo Callaway; Fletcher Thompson; National Democratic Party; conservatism

00:27:42 - Meeting Jack Kemp

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Partial Transcript: So what was your experience during the Reagan administration?

Segment Synopsis: Paul explains why he turned down a position in Ronald Reagan's administration, instead choosing to refocus on local campaigns. He then elaborates on meeting Jack Kemp and what about Kemp inspired Paul to work on his campaign.

Keywords: 1984 election; George Israel; Jim Armstrong; Mack Mattingly; Newt Gingrich; Paul Coverdell; Ted Stivers; Tommy Tolbert; conservatism; party divisions

00:31:52 - Jack Kemp's 1988 campaign

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Partial Transcript: Tell us about your experience in Georgia with the Kemp campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Paul states some of the core tenants of the Jack Kemp's presidential campaign in 1988. Paul also elaborates on the Kemp campaign's downfall--namely, how Kemp and Pat Robertson were both targeting evangelical Christians and cannibalizing each others' campaigns.

Keywords: "Five Amigos"; "Reaganomics"; "retail politics"; Art Laffer; Bob Dole; Charlie Black; Connie Mack; Department of Housing and Urban Development; Dick Armey; George Bush, Sr.; Henry McMaster; Newt Gingrich; Pat Robertson; Paul Hotton; Reagan organization; campaign strategies; evangelical Christians; gold standard; local elections; statewide campaign

00:40:03 - Time in Washington / Running for State Party Chairman

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Partial Transcript: So you do go to Washington.

Segment Synopsis: Paul briefly discusses his time in Washington, D.C., working for Jack Kemp, who had been appointed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He then discusses how he was convinced to return to Georgia and run for Republican Party Chairman in the state, and how he eventually succeeded in being elected to that position.

Keywords: 1990 gubernatorial race; 1992 senate special election; Atlanta Constitution; Alec Poitevint; Atlanta Falcons; Bob Barr; Dalton, Georgia; Don Balfour; Fred Cooper; Grant Frost; Jack Kemp; John Stuckey; Johnny Isakson; Matthew Patton; Mike Benford; Mike Sullivan; Pat Robertson; Paul Coverdell; Phil Neff; Sandy Springs, Georgia; Wyche Fowler; evangelical community; factions; grassroots politics; state convention

00:51:37 - Work as Party Chairman

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Partial Transcript: We went out and began to execute the plan.

Segment Synopsis: Paul describes how he executed his goals as party chairman, particularly noting his focus on effective campaign management and candidate recruitment. He then theorizes why several prominent Democratic politicians switched parties in the late 1990s.

Keywords: Bob Barr; Bob Irvin; Bobby Kahn; Bryan Slater; Cathy Ash; Chamber of Commerce; Chip Lake; Chuck Clay; Don Balfour; Garland Pinholster; Jim King; John Watson; Matthew Patton; Mike Bowers; Nathan Deal; Paul Coverdell; Rotary Club; Sonny Perdue; Steve Anthony; Tom Murphy; Tommy Hopper; Zell Miller; business; campaign infrastructure; direct-mail fundraising; donor base; evangelical vote; hard money; party switches; party unity; soft money; technology; young Republicans

01:05:06 - Targeting races and the Republican takeover

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Partial Transcript: When you were targeting races- you began as chairman in '95- were you still targeting by-and-large those north, older suburbs or trying to expand.

Segment Synopsis: Paul explains how he focused Republican resources on campaigns in more rural areas rather than just Atlanta suburbs, finding that strategy more cost-effective. He then credits the Republican takeover in 2002 to young voters wishing for a change from the entrenched Democratic leadership in Georgia and voting to elect newer Republican figures instead.

Keywords: David Ralston; Democratic coalition; Nathan Deal; Saxby Chambliss; Sonny Perdue; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; candidate selection; generational divide; human nature; leadership; low taxes; power structure; rural races; suburbs; success stories; voter coalitions

01:16:26 - Transportation / Property rights

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of what we need, we spoke briefly before about transportation.

Segment Synopsis: Paul stresses that the rising issue of transportation in Georgia cannot be solved by a single force--it requires cooperation between both political parties, as well as cooperation with local leaders. Paul then philosophizes on the balance between one's property rights and necessary regulation, based on his time as mayor of Sandy Springs.

Keywords: Fulton County, Georgia; MARTA; Sandy Springs, Georgia; bipartisanship; local leaders; metro Atlanta; property rights; public transit; regulation; roads; urban-rural divide

01:26:30 - Polarization in modern politics

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Partial Transcript: Since we're talking about adapting, what's the biggest danger imperiling the Republican majority in this state?

Segment Synopsis: Paul states that he believes the biggest threat to Republican dominance in Georgia is their lack of respect for opposing views. Paul explains that this is largely due to regular American citizens isolating themselves from different viewpoints on social media.

Keywords: 2016 election; Barney Frank; Donald Trump; Facebook; George Hooks; Jack Hill; Jack Kemp; John Lewis; John McLaughlin; Mark Taylor; Ronald Reagan; Twitter; Vincent Fort; arrogance; demographic changes; excessive partisanship; hubris; identity politics; mutual respect; public policy; social media; state senator; talk radio; third parties

01:37:10 - Predictions for 2018 and 2020 elections

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Partial Transcript: In 2020, where do the Democrats go from here?

Segment Synopsis: Paul gives his thoughts on how upcoming elections will turn out. He emphasizes that both parties should be striving for candidates and campaigning tactics that will unite the country, not divide it further.

Keywords: Bernie Sanders; Bill Clinton; Digital Age; Edmund Burke; Elizabeth Warren; Georgia Democratic Party; Nathan Deal; Netroots; Richard Nixon; Sonny Perdue; Stacey Evans; demographic shifts; identity politics; libertarianism; national unity; white conservative males; young voters

01:45:18 - Future of politics in the Digital Age

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Partial Transcript: What do you think Georgia politics looks like 10, 20 years from now?

Segment Synopsis: Paul claims that going forward, political parties and candidates will have to be skilled in communicating their message online. He uses ISIS as a grim example of how powerful effective communication to the right group can be.

Keywords: Citizens United v. FEC; Hurricane Irma; management; messaging; public consensus; social media; technology