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Interview with Alec Poitevint, November 3, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:29 - Early life / Decatur County party chairman

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Partial Transcript: Just to begin with, I was wondering if you could tell us about your childhood, your upbringing, down in south Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint talks about being raised in Bainbridge, Georgia, particularly about knowing governor Marvin Griffin and his family while growing up. He then discusses is role as the Republican Party's county chairman in Decatur County, a Democrat stronghold in south Georgia.

Keywords: "New Georgians"; Augusta, Georgia; Cheney Griffin; Columbus, Georgia; Fulton County, Georgia; Georgia Republican Party; Savannah, Georgia; University of Georgia; agribusiness; agriculture; corruption; county unit system; donor base; machine politics; suburban voters

00:07:59 - 1976 and 1980 elections

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Partial Transcript: So you're county chairman beginning in '75, I believe.

Segment Synopsis: Poitevent describes supporting Gerald Ford's presidential campaign in 1976 against Jimmy Carter. He then recalls the Republican Party's success in electing Mack Mattingly to the U.S. Senate in 1980 despite Jimmy Carter also being on the presidential ballot that year.

Keywords: Bo Callaway; Flowers Industries; Fred Cooper; Herman Talmadge; Plains, Georgia; Ronald Reagan; business community; district chairman; vice state party chairman

00:13:43 - Georgia Republicans in the 1980s

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Partial Transcript: How important--can you quantify how important Ronald Reagan's administration was for building the Republican Party here in Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint comments on the factors that aided the growth of the Republican Party in Georgia, from the Reagan administration's popularity to Nolan Murrah's "Operation Breakthrough" strategy. He also remembers the hectic 1988 presidential primary, particularly the state and national conventions in Albany, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana, respectively.

Keywords: 1988 Republican National Convention; George H.W. Bush; John Stuckey; Pat Robertson; advertising; candidate recruitment; direct mail; education; fundraising; local school board; phone banks; rules committee; state legislature

00:22:07 - Running for state party chairman

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Partial Transcript: How was the party able to come together--I guess we can skip ahead to 1989, when you're running for state party chairman.

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint explains why he ran for the position of state party chairman in 1991, saying that it was a reaction to not being seated as a delegate at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans. He sheds light on the ferocity of the campaigns for state party chairman, talking about his chief opposition from Stanley Baum and former chairman Matthew Patton.

Keywords: Ben Blackburn; Carl Gillis; Carolyn Meadows; Fred Cooper; George H.W. Bush; Haley Barbour; Perry Hooper; minority outreach; national committeeman; party politics

00:28:03 - Objectives as state party chairman

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Partial Transcript: What was the state of the party, the party apparatus, the party infrastructure, that you inherited in 1989?

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint describes the abysmal state he found the Georgia Republican Party in when taking office in 1989: a lack of funding, resources, and party infrastructure. Poitevint details how he rectified these problems so they would not hinder the party in the 1990 gubernatorial election.

Keywords: "Four-Star Program"; Bainbridge, Georgia; Columbia County, Georgia; Cynthia McKenney; David Shafer; Effingham County, Georgia; George H.W. Bush; Johnny Isakson; Lee Atwater; Legislative Black Caucus; Pat Robertson; Paul Coverdell; Thomas County, Georgia; Thomasville, Georgia; Troup County, Georgia; University of Georgia; executive director; fundraising; redistricting; rural counties

00:37:40 - 1992 elections

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Partial Transcript: 1992 elections roll around and the payoff is, of course, that Georgians elect three Republicans to Congress, in addition to Newt Gingrich.

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint tells of the myriad Republican elector victories in 1992, from winning three additional Congressional seats to a Senate seat with Paul Coverdell and a Public Service Commission seat with Robert "Bobby" Baker. He also defends his decision to keep David Duke (a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan) off the Republican presidential ballot in Georgia, saying Duke's white supremacist ideology has no place in the party.

Keywords: Democratic Party; Herman Talmadge; Jack Kingston; John Linder; Mac Collins; Mack Mattingly; Nazism; Wyche Fowler; house minority leader; presidential elector; racism; senate minority leader

00:43:30 - National committeeman / 2002 gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: Your time as chairman ended in '93.

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint touches upon his first stint as Georgia's Republican national committeeman, describing the duties that role entailed. Poitevint then explains Sonny Perdue's victory in both the primary and general elections for the 2002 gubernatorial race, crediting Perdue's success to Georgians wanting a change in direction for the state and seeing Perdue as the man for that job.

Keywords: Bill Byrne; Chuck Clay; Cobb County, Georgia; Columbia County, Georgia; Haley Barbour; Houston County, Georgia; Jimmy Carter; John Watson; Linda Schrenko; Matt Towery; Nick Ayers; Paul Bennecke; Republican National Committee; Roy Barnes; Rusty Paul; Saxby Chambliss; ad campaign; agribusiness; campaign chairman; messaging; party organization; pro-business; state flag; state party chairman; state politics; teachers' union

00:53:07 - Second time as party chairman

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Partial Transcript: Ralph Reed was chairman of the party during the 2002 campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint contrasts the Georgia Republican Party's position when he became state party chairman in 2003 with his initial tenure as chairman. He elaborates how being the ruling party instead of the minority party necessitated a different direction for the state party.

Keywords: Georgia General Assembly; Paul Coverdell; Sonny Perdue; campaign promises; candidate recruitment; communications director; constitutional office; executive director; fundraising; governorship; party switching; redistricting

00:58:06 - Georgia Democrats

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Partial Transcript: Why do you think the Georgia Democrats--as you said, 136 years since Rufus Bullock had been elected governor back in 1868--why do you think Georgia Democrats were able to hold on for so long?

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint ponders how Georgia Democrats maintained their independence from the national Democratic Party and maintained power in the state. Poitevint credits the bulk of their success to having candidates that could connect with voters (especially rural voters) and articulate their concerns.

Keywords: Georgia Department of Transportation; Jimmy Carter; Rusty Paul; Sam Nunn; University System of Georgia Board of Regents; Zell Miller; fiscal conservatism; governorship; rural Georgia; town hall meetings

01:03:40 - Modern-day Georgia Republicans

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Partial Transcript: What are the top priorities--if you had to think of the Republican Party of Georgia, what is its top priority?

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint details what he believes are the chief policy goals of the Georgia Republicans, particularly in the realm of economic development. He also notes the Republicans' ability to reunify for a general election after a fractious primary race.

Keywords: 2017 6th Congressional District special election; David Perdue; John Watson; Jon Ossoff; Karen Handel; Nathan Deal; Sonny Perdue; consensus; demographic shifts; factionalism; government bonds; job creation; pro-business; technical schools

01:10:07 - Future of Georgia politics

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Partial Transcript: What do you think the Republican Party looks like in ten or twenty years?

Segment Synopsis: Poitevint considers what the major issues will be for Georgians in the near future, concluding that the economy, education, and transportation will be the main priorities. Poitevint focuses how how Donald Trump, in his role as president, may shape the state party's policy preferences through his national economic and immigration policies.

Keywords: Bill Brock; David Perdue; George Bush; Georgia Tech; Hartfield-Jackson Airport; Hispanic voters; Nathan Deal; Ronald Reagan; Savannah, Georgia; Sonny Perdue; University of Georgia Board of Regents; agribusiness; economic protectionism; free trade; globalization