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Interview with Jane Kidd, September 26, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:24 - Politics in early life

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Partial Transcript: Just to begin with, tell us a little bit about your upbringing, your childhood, the daughter of Governor Vandiver, the grandniece of Senator Richard Russell.

Segment Synopsis: Kidd reminisces about the political careers of her great-uncle, Richard B. Russell, and her father, Ernest Vandiver. She particularly recalls Vandiver's failed attempts to reenter politics after leaving the Governor's Mansion in 1963, such as his failed U.S. Senate race to replace Russell.

Keywords: 1958 gubernatorial election; David Gambrell; Franklin County, Georgia; J.B. Stoner; Jimmy Carter; John F. Kennedy inauguration; Lavonia, Georgia; Queens University of Charlotte; University of Georgia; William Bodenhamer

00:13:59 - Working in public relations and local politics

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Partial Transcript: I married in '74, we moved to Athens so I could finish Georgia (I had one quarter left), then we moved to Stone Mountain.

Segment Synopsis: Kidd discusses how she intended to have a career in broadcast media, but ultimately ended up in public relations, first for Clemson University, then for the University of Georgia. She elaborates on her political involvement during this time, including being on city council for Lavonia, Georgia and managing Don Johnson's Congressional campaigns.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Davidson's; Democratic Women Association; Herman Aires; Janet Pomeroy; MacArthur Foundation; Macy's; Phyllis Barrow; State Botanical Garden of Georgia; WGTV; WNEG; campaign manager; national media relations; radio broadcasting; television broadcasting

00:22:30 - Time in the Georgia legislature

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Partial Transcript: I went to the alumni office at Grady College, and that's when I decided to run for state legislature.

Segment Synopsis: Kidd explains the difficulties Democrats faced in the hyper-partisan Georgia House of Representatives under Glenn Richardson. Kidd also tells of the redistricting effort by Ralph Hudgens that she believes kept her from winning her race for the state senate.

Keywords: Bill Cowsert; Brian Kemp; Calvin Smyre; Democratic Women Organization; DuBose Porter; Education committee; Glenn Richardson; Health and Human Services committee; Higher Education committee; Kasim Reed; Louise McBee; Oconee County, Georgia; Paul Broun, Sr.; Ralph Hudgens; Walton County, Georgia; partisanship; reapportionment

00:31:26 - Running for state party chairwoman

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Partial Transcript: I didn't know anything about the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Jane talks about her decision to run for state party chairwoman, and how she eventually was elected to the position. She also describes the financial problems facing the newly-ousted Democratic Party that she had to tackle when she assumed office.

Keywords: Bobby Kahn; DuBose Porter; John Lewis; Michael Thurmond; Roy Barnes; Shirley Franklin; campaign funding; direct mail; governor; opposition research; state Democratic Party committee

00:36:51 - Goals as Party Chairwoman / Old Democratic Party

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Partial Transcript: How did you go about trying to--I don't know if "rehabilitate" is the right word--but to rebuild the infrastructure?

Segment Synopsis: Kidd lists the ways she tried to solve the the Georgia Democratic Party's identity crisis by learning what being a "Georgia Democrat" used to mean. In this, she explores the history of conservatism and states' rights in the American South, and how the Democratic Party reflected those ideas.

Keywords: Roe v. Wade; Drew Westen; Emory University; Ernest Vandiver; Insurance Commissioner; John C. Calhoun; Richard B. Russell; Roy Barnes; Secretary of Labor; Sonny Perdue; Ted Kennedy; Thomas Jefferson; economic development; focus groups; liberalism; party switching; state flag

00:45:04 - Party divisions / Managing elections

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Partial Transcript: You were chair during '08, and then 2010.

Segment Synopsis: Kidd discusses some of the more mundane tasks she had as party chairwoman, such as cooperating with the secretary of state and local Boards of Elections to ensure voter roles were kept up to date. She also mentions the surprising difficulty in managing the struggles and divisions within local, county-level parties.

Keywords: Albany, Georgia; Board of Elections; Brian Kemp; Dougherty County, Georgia; Karen Handel; Southern Democrat; candidate recruitment; county parties; party conventions; party divisions; primary election campaigns; probate judges

00:49:59 - 2008 Presidential race

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Partial Transcript: I got a lot of heat for not endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Segment Synopsis: Kidd remembers the hotly-contested Democratic Presidential primary in 2008, shortly after she became party chairwoman. She describes the negative reactions she got for both not supporting Hillary Clinton, and not immediately supporting Barack Obama.

Keywords: Barack Obama's 1st Presidential inauguration; Beau Biden; Bill Clinton; Cathy Cox; David Plouffe; Joe Biden; John Edwards; superdelegates

00:57:57 - Jim Martin and public service

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Partial Transcript: But was that also the year Jim Martin was running for Senate?

Segment Synopsis: Kidd contemplates Jim Martin's 2008 U.S. Senate race against incumbent Saxby Chambliss, namely what factors may have cost Martin the close election. She then comments on the public perception of politicians and public service in the current day.

Keywords: Affordable Care Act; Barack Obama; John Lewis; Max Cleland; Michael Thurmond; Thurbert Baker; Tommy Irvin; honesty; party politics; state legislature; transparency; voter data

01:08:05 - Partisanship in modern politics

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Partial Transcript: Georgia Democrats have been out of power for a decade and a half, give or take.

Segment Synopsis: Kidd laments the increasing divide between the parties in modern politics, specifically their inability to recognize any common ground. She then lambastes the "my-way-or-no-way" mentality that plagues some of the American electorate, specifically citing evangelical Christians as an example of this political mindset.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Christian right; David Scott; Don Johnson; George Busbee; Hank Johnson; Joe Frank Harris; John Lewis; Sonny Perdue; candidate recruitment; compromise; economic divisions; liberalism; nonpartisan elections; party unity; primary elections; racial divisions; state constitution

01:19:37 - Threats to Republicans

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Partial Transcript: What's the biggest threat to the Republicans' current majority?

Segment Synopsis: Kidd lists some of the factors that could lead to the downfall of the Republican Party in Georgia, such as ethics violations or ignoring popular will. Above all, Kidd sees partisan gerrymandering as a method Republicans are willing to use to ensure they remain in power.

Keywords: Donald Trump; John Barrow; Ronald Reagan; Sanford Bishop; Sonny Perdue; Supreme Court of the United States; big government; bribery; canvasing; corruption; gerrymandering; nonpartisan redistricting; populism

01:25:13 - Demographic shifts in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: What do you think about demographic change?

Segment Synopsis: Kidd discusses the possible impact of demographic changes on Georgia politics. She explains that while it may cause small shifts in favor of the Democratic Party, the Republican incumbents will use redistricting, voter ID laws, and campaign finance laws to minimize the effect such shifts would have.

Keywords: Citizens United v. FEC; Athens, Georgia; Karen Handel; Oconee County, Georgia; Sonny Perdue; campaign finance reform; common interests; disenfranchisement; diversity; metro Atlanta; nonpartisan redistricting; polarization

01:30:31 - Barack Obama and Donald Trump

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Partial Transcript: President Obama has caught a lot of flak from the Democratic Party and others for neglecting the state legislatures, for neglecting state parties.

Segment Synopsis: Kidd concludes that a large part of the backlash against Barack Obama's presidency (and the support for Donald Trump) is due to latent racism in American voters. She also comments on the long-term effects of Donald Trump's presidency, such as increased distrust in the government and people seeking office out of self-interest.

Keywords: Democratic National Committee; Great Recession; candidate recruitment; local politics; political outsiders; public servants; race relations; state party regulations

01:35:59 - 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: Well, looking ahead, not too far into the future we're going to have an election to replace Nathan Deal.

Segment Synopsis: Kidd affirms her belief that the Republican nominee for governor in 2018 will either be Casey Cagle or Brian Kemp, noting that both have name recognition, fundraising capabilities, and for Kemp, a strong personality that appeals to voters. Analyzing the Democratic side of the race, Kidd recognizes that both Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans are good candidates and public servants, but their fighting against each other in the primary will only lead to a Republican victory in the general election.

Keywords: Clay Tippins; Don Johnson; Houston Gaines; Hunter Hill; Mike Williams; Nathan Deal; fundraising; lieutenant governor; name recognition; party switching; personality; racial issues; secretary of state

01:43:55 - Future of Georgia politics

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Partial Transcript: 10 to 20 years from now, what does the Georgia Democratic Party look like, what does Georgia politics look like?

Segment Synopsis: Kidd ponders Georgia's political future, predicting that the state will become more bipartisan, with neither Democrats nor Republicans dominating the political scene. She then emphasizes the need for increasing the pay for state legislators to ensure public servants do not turn to influence peddling as a means to make a living.

Keywords: DuBose Porter; Roy Barnes; Southern Democrats; Thurbert Baker; bipartisanship; demographic shifts; desegregation; moderation; part-time legislators; partisanship; pragmatism; public relations; two-party system