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Interview with John Padgett, October 9, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:30 - Early life in Athens

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Partial Transcript: Just to begin with, tell as a little about your background.

Segment Synopsis: Padgett reminisces about his life and career before entering politics. During this, he also discusses how Athens has changed over the years, particularly politically and economically.

Keywords: Athens mayors; Athens, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; Clarke County, Georgia; Colbert, Georgia; Comer, Georgia; Greenwood, Mississippi; Mike Dukakis; Ringgold, Georgia; Sonny Perdue; University of Georgia; insurance; liberalism; local culture; marketing; political moderation; public transit; real estate; urbanization

00:11:45 - Activity in the Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: How did you get involved in Republican politics?

Segment Synopsis: Padgett explains how he initially became involved in local politics and the Republican Party at a friend's request. He mentions how running for vice chairman of the district on a whim gave him entry into state-level party politics.

Keywords: 2nd Amendment; Christian right; Clarke County Republican Party Committee; Democratic Party; John Linder; Nathan Deal; Newt Gingrich; Sonny Perdue; abortion; conservatism; district party convention; gubernatorial races; tax cuts

00:16:56 - Christian right / 2012 Presidential election

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Partial Transcript: So you've mentioned several issues, one I wanted to touch on was the Christian right.

Segment Synopsis: Padgett describes the tensions that arose between the Republican Party and the "Christian right" in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He says that incidents like this and Mitt Romney's loss in 2012 demonstrate the necessity of party unity.

Keywords: 2014 election; David Perdue; Jack Kingston; Jason Carter; Michelle Nunn; Pat Robertson; pro-life movement; state conventions

00:21:14 - Running for state party chairman

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Partial Transcript: Let's take a step back: what was your thought process of getting to where you wanted to run for state party chairman?

Segment Synopsis: Padgett lists the previous positions he held that led to him running for state party chairman in 2013, as well as what gave him an advantage over his opponents, Alex Johnson and B.J. Van Gundy. Padgett also briefly talks about his reelection in 2015, in which Alex Johnson again challenged him on the grounds of "ideological purity".

Keywords: "Republican In Name Only"; Alec Poitevent; Burt Guy; Sonny Perdue; Sue Everhart; assistant secretary; county chairman; district chairman; regional vice chairman; secretary of the Georgia Republican Party; state demographics

00:28:08 - Nathan Deal's governorship

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Partial Transcript: What were some of the issues that--issues or policies, rather--that perhaps put Governor Deal, his administration, at loggerheads with more ideological, programmatic conservatives?

Segment Synopsis: Padgett comments on some of the boons Republican leadership, particularly under Nathan Deal, has brought to Georgia. However, he also notes where Deal's administration has encountered friction with party leadership or with the Georgia legislature.

Keywords: "rainy day" fund; 2014 elections; David Perdue; David Ralston; Republican National Committee; balanced state budget; business community; campus carry; film industry; religious freedom; state revenue; transportation

00:33:32 - Campaign finance after Citizens United

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Partial Transcript: Talking about money and resources, running a political party or being the head of a political party, how has that changed in the post-Citizens United universe, in terms of raising money with the rise of super PACs and these outside groups that can spend limitless money?

Segment Synopsis: Padgett laments the difficulties the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has made for organizing campaign funding at the state level. However, he also tells of how donations to the state party may be used for non-campaign purpose, citing his initiative for minority engagement.

Keywords: "victory program"; Citizens United v. FEC; John Watson; Reince Priebus; Republican National Committee; political action committees

00:37:59 - Role of the party in elections / 2014 Senatorial race

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Partial Transcript: So you've mentioned the party--what are the main responsibilities of the party?

Segment Synopsis: Padgett lists some of the main duties of a political party for its candidates, emphasizing voter registration and turnout in particular. Padgett also elaborates on how David Perdue came out on top in the contentious 2014 Senatorial primary election.

Keywords: 2010 gubernatorial race; 2017 6th Congressional District special election; Athens, Georgia; Jack Kingston; Karen Handel; Paul Broun, Jr.; Phil Gingree; candidate recruitment; canvasing; county party organization; fundraising; telephone banking; voter education; voter registration; voter turnout

00:43:57 - 2016 Presidential election and Donald Trump

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Partial Transcript: You were chairman during 2016, which will go down as a very historic election.

Segment Synopsis: Padgett states his reasons why Donald Trump swept the Republican primary in the 2016 presidential election, giving an anecdote that he says highlights Trump's appeal. He then ponders why some of the most traditionally Republican counties in Georgia voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Keywords: Bobby Jindal; Cobb County, Georgia; Fox Theatre; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Henry County, Georgia; Hillary Clinton; Jeb Bush; Lindsey Graham; Marco Rubio; NeverTrump movement; Ted Cruz; Twitter; executive orders; internal polling; social moderation

00:51:35 - 2017 6th Congressional District special election

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Partial Transcript: So you've already mentioned the 6th District race in 2017.

Segment Synopsis: Padgett analyzes Democrat Jon Ossoff's nearly-successful campaign for the 6th Congressional District in 2017, mentioning what Ossoff did well and where he failed. However, Padgett also affirms that the results were not just due to Ossoff's failure, but also the Republicans' efforts to turn out every voter possible for the election.

Keywords: Karen Handel; Nathan Deal; Tom Price; general election; national Democratic Party; off-year elections; phone banking; primary election; voter turnout; yard signs

00:57:09 - Party realignment in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Well, transitions us into the next sort of questions I want to talk about.

Segment Synopsis: Padgett describes how the polarization of the political parties over time contributed to the Democrat's waning support. He qualifies this by noting that while the national parties polarized quickly, the Georgia Democratic Party mostly remained toward the political center, only liberalizing in the past two decades.

Keywords: 2018 gubernatorial race; Barry Goldwater; Carl Sanders; George Busbee; Jimmy Carter; Joe Frank Harris; Richard Nixon; Ronald Reagan; Zell Miller; conservatism; conservative Democrats; liberalism; local elections; national elections; polarization; state elections

00:59:58 - 2018 gubernatorial election

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about 2018 and work our way back towards the structural, philosophical questions.

Segment Synopsis: Padgett considers the odds of all the Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2018, concluding that if Hunter Hill or Clay Tippins wish to win the race, they must focus on increasing their name recognition. While Padgett says he can't accurately predict the outcome of the Democratic primary, he doubts either Stacey Abrams or Stacey Evans can win the general election.

Keywords: Brian Kemp; Casey Cagle; Chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party; Cobb County, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; Mike Williams

01:04:39 - Democratic dominance in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: We talked about the transition of the parties--why were Georgia Democrats able to hold on to power so long?

Segment Synopsis: Padgett explains how the Democratic Party retained power in Georgia until Sonny Perdue's election in 2002. He notes that until that point, Democrats were able to appeal to voters outside of Atlanta as well within the city, which is what is necessary for a party in Georgia to win.

Keywords: Augusta, Georgia; Columbus, Georgia; David Perdue; Joe Frank Harris; Macon, Georgia; Nathan Deal; Roy Barnes; Savannah, Georgia; Saxby Chambliss; Zell Miller; agriculture; bipartisanship; metro Atlanta; middle Georgia; state flag issue; statewide offices

01:09:32 - National and Georgia Republicans

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Partial Transcript: We're talking about Congress and Washington, D.C.--Republicans control the White House, Senate and the House of Representatives.

Segment Synopsis: Padgett gives his hypothesis for the lack of action by Republicans in Congress, citing primarily a lack of core principles or party unity. Padgett then stresses that while Georgia Republicans stick strong to conservative values, they are trying to broaden their demographics through minority engagement and criminal justice reform.

Keywords: Affordable Care Act; Asian Americans; Donald Trump; Hispanic Americans; Indian Americans; Leal Smith; Lisa Kenamore; Medicaid; United States Senate; bail reform; demographic changes; immigration; job training; limited government; rehabilitation courts; tax cuts; voter turnout

01:18:49 - Future of Georgia politics

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Partial Transcript: Why has the Democratic Party in Georgia not been able to make- the party's been out of the Governor's Mansion since January 2003, lost the senate with a few crossovers right after that election, lost the Georgia House in 2005- why has the Democratic Party, even though they've been out of power so long, not been able to mount some kind of resurgence?

Segment Synopsis: Padgett discusses the main issue he sees plaguing the Democratic Party now and in the future--a lack of quality candidates to run for even lower-level offices. He briefly comments on John Barrow's run for Georgia secretary of state in 2018, concluding that while Barrow is a prominent figure in the Georgia Democratic Party, the Republican candidate will be prepared to face him in the general election.

Keywords: Houston Gaines; Jack Hill; candidate recruitment; county commissioners; governorship; mayors; party switching; secretary of state; sheriffs; statewide elections