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Interview with Bob Irvin, September 18, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:29 - Growing up Republican in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Just to get started, tell us about growing up in and around Atlanta back during your childhood.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin says that he was first introduced to politics through his family, since they were Republicans in the heavily Democratic Georgia. He then talks about being the chairman for the state's Young Republicans, which eventually pushed him to run for office in 1972.

Keywords: Archie Lindsey; Barry Goldwater; College of William and Mary; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Emory Law School; Fulton County, Georgia; John Savage; Republican politics; Roswell, Georgia; Sandy Springs, Georgia; Young Republicans; reapportionment; rural areas

00:05:42 - 1972 election / Urban Caucus

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Partial Transcript: What was Georgia Republican politics like in '72 with an unpopular Democratic nominee in George McGovern?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin remembers succeeding in being elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1972, which he credits to Richard Nixon being a popular Republican president at the time. He also discusses his involvement in the bipartisan Urban Caucus, listing the policy goals of the group.

Keywords: "Georgia Democrat"; Bibb County, Georgia; Chatham County, Georgia; Fletcher Thompson; Harry Geisinger; House minority leader; Jimmy Carter; Metro Atlanta; Mike Egan; Muscogee County, Georgia; Richmond County, Georgia; Sam Nunn; Urban Caucus; conservatism; education funding; highway funding; minority whip; state legislature; subcommittee chairman; urban/rural divide

00:09:59 - Tom Murphy / Republican Caucus

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about Speaker Murphy and his relationship with the Republican caucus.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin recalls Tom Murphy's harsh treatment of the few Republicans in the Georgia House of Representatives, contrasting Murphy with his predecessor, George L. Smith. Irvin next explains how the Republican caucus had very little agreement about policy, but eventually found certain issues to coalesce around.

Keywords: "party identification" issues; Bob Beckham; Newt Gingrich; Speaker of the House; Virginia Shapard; Zell Miller; accountability; conference committee; open committee meetings; welfare reform

00:14:51 - Watergate effects / State Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: You survived the 1974 Watergate wipeout.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin describes the severe impact that the Watergate scandal had on the Republican Party, particularly the the losses of several members of the already small Republican Caucus. He then ponders the different ways the state Republican Party responded to this--primarily by building a strong party platform and creating a reliable donor base.

Keywords: 1974 election; AFL-CIO; Bill Amos; Bo Callaway; Bob Shaw; Georgia Legislative Political Action Committee; Haskey Bradley; Herb Mayberry; John Linder; Long-Range Planning Committee; Mack Mattingly; Newt Gingrich; Nora Allen; Paul Coverdell; Richard Nixon; Ronnie Thompson; candidate recruitment; fundraising; independent voters; party switching; reform; runoff election; state party chairman; voter turnout

00:22:59 - Involvement in state politics

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so you decide to step away from politics in 1978.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin details the ways he remained involved in Georgia politics after leaving the legislature, particularly in regards to Rodney Cook's 1978 challenge against George Busbee for the governorship. He also notes his involvement with Republican party politics through the state conventions.

Keywords: 1978 gubernatorial election; George Busbee; Harvard Business School; John Linder; McKinsey & Company; Newt Gingrich; Paul Coverdell; Rodney Cook; Ronnie Thompson; honesty; management consulting; state party chairman; tax increases

00:28:07 - Elections in the 1980s

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk about some of those conventions of the 1980s.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin comments on the multiple electoral losses Republicans sustained in Georgia in the 1980s, particularly the campaigns of Bob Bell for governor and Mack Mattingly's reelection for the U.S. Senate. He then remembers the different figures that ran in the divisive Republican Presidential primary in 1988.

Keywords: 1966 gubernatorial election; 1982 gubernatorial election; 1986 Senatorial race; Bo Callaway; Bo Ginn; Bob Bell; Bob Dole; Brant Frost; Christian right; Connie Russell; David Gambrell; Democratic political machine; Ellis Arnall; Fletcher Thompson; George H.W. Bush; Guy Davis; Herman Talmadge; Howard Baker; Jack Kemp; Joe Frank Harris; John Connally; Lester Maddox; Mack Mattingly; Pat Robertson; Phil Crane; Ronald Reagan; Wyche Fowler; corruption; retail politics; state senator

00:39:22 - Returning to the Georgia legislature

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Partial Transcript: You decided to get back into elective politics.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin describes his failed attempt to return to the Georgia House of Representatives by displacing incumbent Dorothy Felton in 1990. He then discusses the circumstances around his successful special election in 1993, and becoming House minority leader the following year.

Keywords: 1990 election; Bill Lee; Burke Day; Elliott Levitas; Garland Pinholster; George Larsen; House Rules Committee; Jerry Horton; Kil Townsend; Mike Egan; Nathan Deal; Sally Newbill; Sandy Springs, Georgia; Scott Dix; Sidney Marcus; Steve Stencil; Tom Murphy; city incorporation

00:45:31 - Role as House minority leader

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Partial Transcript: So now that you are in leadership and get to craft the issue and messaging of the party, what did you try to pursue, and what was the purpose behind the policies?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin lists the policies he, as the minority leader, tried to push through the House of Representatives, to varying degrees of success. He also tells of Guy Millner's role in the party in the mid-1990s, particularly in regard to bringing in a consistent donor base.

Keywords: 1994 gubernatorial race; 1996 election; Mike Bowers; Rusty Paul; State Board of Pardons and Paroles; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; camaign funding; criminal recidivism; fundraising; party platform; party politics; party switching; violent crime; welfare reform

00:54:13 - State party in the 1990s

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Partial Transcript: I forgot to ask, were you still as involved in the state party in the '90s a leader as you had been in the '70s?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin remembers the tactics the Republican state party chairmen took to bolster Republicans in elections in the 1990s, comparing their methods to modern political consulting. Irvin then contemplates the theories as to why Lynn Westmoreland was able to overcome him in his reelection as House minority leader.

Keywords: Bibb County; Billy Lovett; Chuck Clay; Department of Family and Child Services; Marvin Arrington; Mike Bowers; Roy Barnes; Rusty Paul; Zell Miller; budget cuts; campaigning; conservatism; fundraising; interest groups; welfare reform

00:58:45 - Elections in 2002

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Partial Transcript: But 2000 is not the end of your elective career.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin recalls his failed attempt to run for U.S. Senate in 2002, noting that the national Republican Party favored a nominee who was also a Congressman, and Saxby Chambliss attracted their attention because he fit that bill. He also comments on the multiple electoral victories Republicans had in Georgia in 2002.

Keywords: 2002 election; Bill Byrne; Charles Walker; Dick Cheney; Dick Pettis; Eric Tannenblatt; George W. Bush; Linda Schrenko; Pierre Howard; President pro tempore; Republican National Committee; Sonny Perdue; middle Georgia; party switching; primary race; redistricting; school teachers; south Georgia; state flag; transportation

01:06:48 - Democratic incumbency in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Why were Georgia Democrats able to hold on as long as 2002?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin considers the factors that helped the Democratic Party retain power in Georgia into the new millennium. He credits a coalition of rural whites and urban blacks and Democratic redistricting to empower those groups as the main reasons Democrats held political control until 2002.

Keywords: "night-and-day" coalition; Tom Murphy; business community; conservatism; crime; education; gerrymandering; liberalism; popular vote; state funding; welfare

01:11:39 - Republican governance

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Partial Transcript: Some people have said the governing priorities, or the way the Republican Party has governed the state of Georgia since 2003, is not really that different from how conservative Democratic governors and legislatures governed the state.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin talks about the policies that differentiate Republican governance from Democratic governance, namely refusing to expand the state's budget and enacting pro-business economic policies. He then lists some areas where Republicans have not been successful, including education and transportation.

Keywords: George Busbee; Georgia Department of Transportation; Roy Barnes; TSPLOST; Zell Miller; criminal justice; low taxes; opportunity school amendment; prosperity; regulations

01:18:24 - Improving transportation

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Partial Transcript: Since we're on the issue of transportation, what is the future of transportation, what are Atlanta's critical transportation needs?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin elaborates on his views about the transportation system in Georgia, namely around Atlanta. He stresses that while traffic congestion cannot be entirely eliminated in a large city, it can be minimized through highway and busway expansion.

Keywords: Amazon; Chicago, Illinois; Coffee County, Georgia; Google; London, England; MARTA; New York City; Paris, France; TSPLOST; developmental highways; policy analysis; rural healthcare; urban-rural divide; zoning

01:24:48 - Threats to Republican incumbency / 2017 6th District special election

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Partial Transcript: Back to politics, what is the greatest danger imperiling a Republican majority, either in the short-term or long-term?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin claims that the greatest threat to Republicans is not demographic changes, as many claim, but instead ignoring the needs of the public for their own self-gain. He also affirms that the competitive race between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff was not indicative of the political parties' futures, and instead an anomaly created by the circumstances and both sides' campaigning.

Keywords: 2017 6th District special election; African-American voters; Democratic National Committee; Democratic Party; Donald Trump; Hispanic voters; demographic shifts; local base; majority party; media; partisan politics; party splits; political ads; public needs; public relations; purple state; selfishness; state legislature; voter outreach

01:31:22 - 2016 Presidential election

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Partial Transcript: 2016, a historic Presidential election. What is the short-term and long-term effect of Donald Trump on the Republican Party?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin postulates about the impact of Donald Trump's election in 2016, as well as the factors contributing to Trump's success. Irvin also raises questions about Bernie Sanders's popularity among millennials, as well as Trump's surprising lack of success in Cobb County.

Keywords: 1984 Presidential election; 1996 Presidential election; Bernie Sanders; Bill Clinton; Cobb County, Georgia; Donald Trump; Erick Erickson; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Hillary Clinton; NeverTrump movement; Newt Gingrich; Ronald Reagan; Rust Belt; Ted Cruz; Walter Mondale; business community; demographic changes; economic prosperity; economic protectionism; millenials; rural voters; urban voters

01:36:53 - 2017 Atlanta mayoral race

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Partial Transcript: Upcoming mayor's race here in Atlanta.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin predicts the 2017 mayoral race in Atlanta, assuring that Mary Norwood has a strong chance of succeeding. He then discusses the potential of the then-leading Democratic opponents, Ceasar Mitchell and Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Keywords: 2009 Atlanta mayoral race; African-American vote; DeKalb County, Georgia; Democratic Party; Kasim Reed; Republican Party; Republican supporters; Vincent Fort; black community; busing voters; independent; runoff election; voter turnout

01:42:53 - 2018 gubernatorial race / Future of the parties

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Partial Transcript: There's also Governor Deal term-limited in 2018.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin weighs the odds of each candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial race, claiming the Republicans will still likely walk away with a victory, but with whom he is not sure. Irvin then states what both political parties should do if they wish to succeed in future elections.

Keywords: Brian Kemp; Casey cagle; Clay Tippins; David Shafer; Democratic primaries; Hunter Hill; Jason Carter; John Oxendine; Michelle Nunn; Mike Williams; Roy Barnes; Stacey Abrams; Stacey Evans; candidate recruitment; minority leader; name recognition; party platform; party switching; policy solutions; political outsider; rural whites