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Interview with Billy Lovett, October 31, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:38 - Early life / Service as county commissioner

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood, your upbringing, your background, things like that?

Segment Synopsis: Lovett remembers being introduced to politics by helping his grandfather campaign for the state legislature. He then discusses his goals as the commissioner of Laurens County, namely in the realm of economic development.

Keywords: "Two Georgia" controversy; "sunbelt boom"; Carl Vinson; Chamber of Commerce; Charles F. Floyd; Democratic Party; Dublin, Georgia; Georgia House of Representatives; Georgia Senate; Herman Talmadge; Interstate 16; Kiliaen Townsend; Richard Russell; campaigning; economic development; rural Georgia; skilled labor; tansportation; textile industry; voting machines

00:08:00 - Joining the Georgia Public Service Commission

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Partial Transcript: What made you want to make the jump from Laurens County commission to the Public Service Commission in '77, '78?

Segment Synopsis: Lovett explains his decision to run and join the Public Service Commission. In doing so, he details his frustrations with the Georgia Power Company, due to their consumer-unfriendly practices and political control.

Keywords: Who Runs Georgia; Calvin Kytle; Coca-Cola; James A. Mackay; Margaret Shannon; Public Service Commission chairman; Southern Company; career politicians; consumer advocate; economic development; lobbying; public hearings; state legislature

00:16:17 - 1982 gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: So you were on the board for about two years or so, and there's a gubernatorial election in 1982.

Segment Synopsis: Lovett elaborates on his decision to run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1982, despite knowing he likely would not win. Lovett also talks about supporting Congressman Bo Ginn over the ultimate winner, Joe Frank Harris, in the Democratic Party's runoff for the governor seat.

Keywords: 1979 Oil Shock; Bob Bell; Cartersville, Georgia; Georgia Power; Norman Underwood; Public Service Commission; Speaker of the House; Tom Murphy; state energy plan; utility reform

00:21:38 - Switching parties

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Partial Transcript: So in 1984, you ran for reelection.

Segment Synopsis: Lovett shares what prompted him to switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party while in office. He describes the impact having a Republican in state office (even if not elected as a Republican) had on the fledgling party's morale.

Keywords: Bob Bell; Bob Shaw; Jim McGraw; Matthew Patton; Paul Coverdell; Public Service Commission; Ronald Reagan; Tom Murphy; grassroots organization; party leadership; party politics; public service; regulatory reform

00:27:23 - 1990 election / Becoming state party chairman

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Partial Transcript: Your first presidential election as a Republican was 1988.

Segment Synopsis: Lovett recalls his 1990 campaign for Georgia insurance commissioner, crediting his confidence to run on already having a statewide voter base from his role on the Public Service Commission. After losing the vote, he tells of become the Republican Party's state chairman at the behest of the party leadership.

Keywords: 1988 Presidential election; Alec Poitevint; Atlanta Republicans; Bainbridge, Georgia; Bob Dole; Christian right; George H.W. Bush; Jack Kemp; Tim Ryles; auto insurance; health insurance

00:33:06 - Running the Georgia Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: When you come in to the party headquarters, 1991, what was your assessment of the critical infrastructure?

Segment Synopsis: Lovett lists his main goals as state party chairman: namely, to recruit candidates to run for public offices at all levels, and to raise funds for their campaigns. He adds that the Republican party's congressional gains in the early 1990s helped greatly in establishing the Republican Party as a viable political force.

Keywords: 1992 election; 1994 election; 1994 gubernatorial election; Alec Poitevint; Bob Barr; Casey Cagle; Charlie Norwood; Democratic Party; Guy Millner; Jack Kingston; John Linder; Mac Collins; Newt Gingrich; Perry McGuire; Saxby Chambliss; T. Boone Pickens; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; business community; campaign funding; local offices; name recognition; party politics; statewide offices; voting trends

00:41:56 - Future of Georgia politics

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Partial Transcript: So let's zoom out a bit.

Segment Synopsis: Lovett predicts that the Republicans will eventually make the same mistakes Democrats did prior to 2002--becoming complacent as the majority party and writing their opponents off. He further states that the Democrats' best chance of a comeback is to run moderate candidates instead of pushing farther to the left.

Keywords: Democratic National Committee; Donald Trump; campaign funding; demographic shifts; economic issues; education; free trade; metro Atlanta; party leadership; protectionism; social issues