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Interview with Guy Millner, November 14, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:45 - Early life and entering the business world

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Partial Transcript: I came to Atlanta in the fall of 1958, having graduated from Florida State.

Segment Synopsis: Millner tells about founding and growing his own business after failing to find employment at more established corporations like Procter & Gamble and IBM. On the political side, Millner notes that while he was raised a Democrat, the 1964 presidential election made him reconsider, and he ultimately joined the Republican Party for Mack Mattingly in 1980.

Keywords: Adlai Stevenson; Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; Atlanta, Georgia; Barry Goldwater; Bob Bell; George Smathers; Ivan Allen, Jr.; Lyndon B. Johnson; William B. Hartsfield; Young Democrats; business establishment; crime; education

00:09:01 - Running the Norrell Corporation

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Partial Transcript: Before we really jump headfirst into politics, I'd like to talk about the company that you already mentioned, the Norrell Corporation.

Segment Synopsis: Millner discusses why he founded the Norrell Corporation, a supplemental staffing business, and why it brought him to Atlanta. He talks about how this business intersected with politics, particularly in the realm of minimum wage increases and industrialization of the U.S. economy.

Keywords: Wall Street Journal; Birmingham, Alabama; Jimmy Carter; Nashville, Tennessee; Sears Roebuck; college graduates; distribution; personnel company; service economy; warehousing

00:16:16 - Early political involvement

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Partial Transcript: So you mention Lyndon Johnson, Barry Goldwater, that sort of Great Society election, how did you get involved in that election?

Segment Synopsis: Millner describes his limited political involvement in the 1960s and 1970s while he worked to grow his business. Millner focuses on his friendship with Jimmy Carter while Carter was in the Governor's Mansion and considering his initial presidential run.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; Buckhead, Georgia; Hamilton Jordan; Hubert Humphrey; Jody Powell; John F. Kennedy; National Association of Employment Services; Newt Gingrich; Paul Coverdell; corporate taxes; one-party system; party infrastructure; welfare programs

00:22:39 - Working on the Mattingly campaign

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Partial Transcript: So you come on board in 1980 on Mack Mattingly's campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Millner recalls working on both Mack Mattingly's 1980 and 1986 campaigns as the chief fundraiser. Millner sees Mattingly's defeat to Wyche Fowler in 1986 as the result of a "wave election", comparing it to how he almost overcame Zell Miller in 1994 riding a pro-Republican wave.

Keywords: Herman Talmadge; Newt Gingrich; Ronald Reagan

00:28:00 - Bob Bell's gubernatorial race / Paul Coverdell

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Partial Transcript: Well, speaking of--I don't know if it was necessarily a wave election in '82, but there was definitely an anti-Reagan backlash in '82, and you were finance chair for Bob Bell.

Segment Synopsis: Millner shares an anecdote from the Bob Bell campaign for governor in 1982, which he believes demonstrates the campaign's general disorganization and dysfunction. Millner then remembers his cooperation with Paul Coverdell, with Millner working on Coverdell's 1992 Senate campaign, then Coverdell urging Millner to run for governor in 1994.

Keywords: Joe Frank Harris; Mack Mattingly; Thomasville, Georgia; fundraising

00:35:16 - 1994 gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: What compelled you to leave the business world and enter the world of party politics, elected politics?

Segment Synopsis: Millner explains why he opted to run for office in 1994, noting that his business experience allowed him to win the Republican primary. However, he states that his personality also led to his own defeat in the general election, as it alienated many rural voters.

Keywords: Cobb County, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; Gwinnett County, Georgia; John Knox; Paul Heard; Sonny Perdue; University of Georgia; Zell Miller; Zig Ziglar; agriculture; campaign experiences; metro Atlanta; policy issues; south Georgia; voter connection

00:45:14 - 1996 U.S. Senate race

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Partial Transcript: Why did you jump into the Senate campaign?

Segment Synopsis: Millner elaborates on his rationale for running for U.S. Senate in 1996 after failing in the gubernatorial race in 1994. Millner articulates that his loss came from the strength of his opponent Max Cleland, who had no voting record to criticize and whose injuries (being a triple-amputee from the Vietnam War) made character attacks politically unfeasible.

Keywords: Georgia Chamber of Commerce; Jack Kingston; Johnny Isakson; Sam Nunn; Saxby Chambliss; TV advertisements; Ted Cruz; Tom Murphy; attack ads; name recognition

00:52:42 - 1998 gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: So after '96, you've ran two hard primaries, two hard general elections.

Segment Synopsis: Millner talks about running for governor a second time in 1998, this time against an open seat rather than an incumbent. Millner states that while he expected to do well against Roy Barnes, who he saw as a much less competitive candidate than Zell Miller, the political "wave" was against Republicans in 1998, resulting in Millner's third and final loss.

Keywords: Billy Lovett; Georgia Republican Party; Mike Bowers; Nathan Deal; Newt Gingrich; Sonny Perdue; Southern Governors' Association; national Republican Party; party realignment; party switching; rural voters; south Georgia; wave election

01:00:35 - Democratic and Republican rule

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Partial Transcript: That gets me to my next question: why was the Democratic Party able to hold on to power in Georgia for so long?

Segment Synopsis: Millner lists what he sees as the reasons Democrats generally retained political control in Georgia until the 2000s, focusing specifically on Georgia Democrats' fiscal and economic conservatism. Millner next evaluates the Republicans Party's current strengths, including a strong candidate bench and a reliable fundraising mechanism.

Keywords: Department of Veterans' Affairs; George Busbee; Great Society; Joe Frank Harris; Ross Perot; Sam Nunn; Tea Party movement; Trent Lott; Wyche Fowler; candidate quality; party infrastructure; social issues; walk-around management; welfare programs

01:12:49 - Economic growth in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: When I talk to folks, or you read the newspapers about what the Republican Party stands for in Georgia, or what Georgia politics--the number one priority is always economic growth.

Segment Synopsis: Millner observes how Georgia has spurred economic development in the state through a variety of methods. However, Millner also criticizes how most of the state's economic development is focused on Atlanta, not smaller towns or cities, and even then, only in certain parts of Atlanta, while others lie barren.

Keywords: Albany, Georgia; Buckhead, Georgia; Midtown Atlanta; Nathan Deal; Perry, Georgia; port of Savannah; religious liberty; rural Georgia; social issues; tax rate; transportation; urbanization

01:19:38 - Donald Trump and the 2016 election

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Partial Transcript: The Republican Party, for most of your life, was always the opposition party here in Georgia, but very quickly, very rapidly, it became the majority party after 2002.

Segment Synopsis: Millner speaks broadly of how the candidate selection process in both parties leads to strong candidates rising to the top. He relates this to the 2016 presidential primary, where Donald Trump stood out and overcame a myriad of other candidates due to his strong personality.

Keywords: 2018 gubernatorial race; Affordable Care Act; Barack Obama; Billy Lovett; Casey Cagle; Chris Christie; Hillary Clinton; Hunter Hill; Jeb Bush; Marco Rubio; elitism

01:26:03 - Economic protectionism

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Partial Transcript: I was listening to the--this is last week--NPR had a piece, and they were talking to Eric Cantor, who was the former house majority whip up in Virginia.

Segment Synopsis: Millner doubts whether the turn away from free trade toward economic protectionism in the country will do anything to restore manufacturing and industry to its former state. Instead, he believes that those jobs have largely been lost due to automation and that the nation will have to adopt universal basic income to overcome that job loss.

Keywords: IBM; factory jobs; healthcare; populism; service industry; technology

01:34:00 - Education / Minority outreach

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Partial Transcript: What role, then, does education play in this whole transformation process?

Segment Synopsis: Millner touches upon higher education in Georgia, stressing the need to incorporate vocational schools into the main University System of Georgia instead of keeping them separate. He next analyzes why minority outreach among Republicans often fails, using his own campaigns as examples.

Keywords: 2017 Atlanta mayoral race; George H.W. Bush; George W. Bush; Georgia State University; Mary Norwood; STEM fields; University of Georgia; economic development; minority vote; social sciences

01:42:06 - Problems of inner-city and rural communities

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Partial Transcript: Do you think Donald Trump, at the top of the ticket, the face of the Republican Party--he's very brash; "outspoken" is sort of an understatement.

Segment Synopsis: Millner details the issues facing inner-city, often minority, populations, such as crime and job loss, and he criticizes the government's inability to handle the issue. Millner contrasts this with the economic problems of rural communities in Georgia, which he attributes to a general lack of demand, which he believes can only be remedied through economic incentives.

Keywords: Ben Carson; Donald Trump; Jeb bush; Marco Rubio; Young Men's Christian Association; income taxes; middle Georgia; minority outreach; property taxes; public policy; rural communities; south Georgia