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Interview with Joyce Carter Stevens, December 1, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:40 - South Georgia / Working in business

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Partial Transcript: To begin with, I was wondering if you would tell me a little bit about your upbringing, your childhood, growing up in south Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Stevens discusses growing up in agrarian south Georgia, noting how this shaped the values she would later carry into politics. Stevens also explains how she joined the business industry and climbed up the ranks in the Del-Cook Lumber Company.

Keywords: Adel, Georgia; Bessie Tift College; Chaserville, Georgia; Cook County, Georgia; Forsyth County, Georgia; Georgia Business Institute; Republican Party; Valdosta, Georgia; cotton; farming; local politics; marketing; ministry; switchboard operator; tobacco market

00:10:50 - Mack Mattingly's 1980 campaign

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Partial Transcript: So how did you end up, in 1981, becoming the first woman executive director of the Georgia Republican Party?

Segment Synopsis: Stevens talks about her first major involvement with the Republican Party--fundraising for Mack Mattingly's 1980 U.S. Senate run. She says that this led to her organizing the Cook County Republican Party and getting involved in the upper echelons of the state party.

Keywords: 1974 gubernatorial race; Bill Amos; Bobby Rowan; Fred Cooper; Gerald Ford; Herman Talmadge; Marguerite Williams; Paul Coverdell; Ronald Reagan; T. Rogers Wade; county party chair; party organization; state party chairman

00:17:14 - Role as executive director

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Partial Transcript: Before we move forward as executive director of the state party, I wonder if you well tell me first a bit about Paul Coverdell, since he is no longer with us.

Segment Synopsis: Stevens describes Paul Coverdell's effort to increase party organization through his "Long-Range Planning Committee", with Stevens herself serving as one of Coverdell's "pointmen", who would do whatever task he appointed. Stevens then lists her methods for building up the Georgia Republican Party's donor base as Fred Cooper's executive director, thus expanding the state party's fundraising capabilities.

Keywords: Georgia Republicans Foundation; Joe Rogers; John Watson; Yellow Dog Democrats; candidate recruitment; metro Atlanta; rural voters

00:25:24 - 1982 election cycle

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Partial Transcript: So 1982, that is your first election cycle.

Segment Synopsis: Stevens discusses serving as the executive director in the lead-up to the 1982 gubernatorial race, in which Republican Bob Bell faced Democrat Joe Frank Harris. She explains that she did not leave the executive director position voluntarily; instead, she was made to become Dave Sellers's campaign manager in his congressional race against Larry McDonald that same year.

Keywords: Ben Blackburn; Buddy Darden; Dave Sellers; Fred Cooper; Joe Rogers; John Linder; Mack Mattingly; Newt Gingrich; Nolan Murrah; fundraising; party organization; political consulting; state committee; state party chairman

00:30:38 - Running for public office

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Partial Transcript: So what possessed you to run for the Public Service Commission?

Segment Synopsis: Stevens elaborates on running statewide as a female Republican for the Public Service Commission in 1984, in which she ran against a vulnerable Mac Barber. She was ultimately unsuccessful. She also talks about her unsuccessful campaign for the state senate in 2002, after having moved to Walton County.

Keywords: 1990 gubernatorial race; Atlanta Constitution; John Stevens; Johnny Isakson; Mike Bowers; Sonny Perdue; finance committee; fundraising; public service

00:37:27 - Georgia Democratic Party

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Partial Transcript: Zooming out a bit, I want to get your thoughts on the bigger questions about the rise of the Republican Party in Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Stevens credits the business community favoring the stability of continued Democratic governance for prolonging the Democrats' rule in Georgia. She then states that the ultimate downfall of Georgia Democrats came from a lack of party organization, especially compared to the Georgia Republicans, who she says had developed a tightly-knit organization out of necessity.

Keywords: "yellow dog Democrats"; George Busbee; Georgia Chamber of Commerce; Herman Talmadge; Jefferson-Jackson Dinner; Joe Frank Harris; John Teasley; Paul Coverdell; Sam Nunn; Speaker of the House; Tom Murphy; governorship

00:43:23 - 1988 presidential election

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Partial Transcript: Before I forget about it, the 1988 Republican Convention in Albany was a real flashpoint.

Segment Synopsis: Stevens recalls the turmoil at the state party convention in Albany, Georgia, in response to Pat Robertson's supporters becoming a new force in the Republican Party. She then speaks more broadly about the incorporation of the "Christian right" into the Republican Party after that election.

Keywords: Alec Poitevint; Brant Frost; College Republicans; John Stuckey; John Teasley; Marguerite Williams; Ralph Reed; Republican National Convention; state party chairman

00:48:41 - Becoming the majority party

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Partial Transcript: Looking at the 1990s- 1980s and the 1990s- what were the key factors that explained why the Republican Party was able to grow, become competitive, and eventually win state, local, congressional-level elections?

Segment Synopsis: Stevens details the factors she believes contributed to the increasing growth and strength of the Georgia Republican Party, with the most vital being the efforts by elected officials to see the party succeed. However, she also warns that if the party becomes complacent and feels like its supremacy is guaranteed, then Democrats will seize the opportunity and mount a comeback.

Keywords: 2017 Atlanta mayoral race; Don Cheeks; Donald Trump; Eric Johnson; Glenn Richardson; Houston Gaines; Jack Hill; John Watson; Keisha Lance Bottoms; Mack Mattingly; Mary Norwood; Penny Houston; Ronna Romney McDaniel; Saxby Chambliss; Sonny Perdue; abortion issue; bipartisanship; business community; financial base; healthcare; local elections; metro Atlanta; north Georgia; party divisions; party switching; religious freedom; rural Georgia; social issues; south Georgia; transportation

01:03:19 - 2016 election and the future of the parties

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Partial Transcript: I want to talk about the 2016 election.

Segment Synopsis: Stevens comments on how she believes Donald Trump was elected because he was able to communicate with the average voter. Stevens also analyzes where she believes both the Republican and Democratic parties will go in the following years, concluding that the biggest advantage that Georgia Democrats have is out-of-state funding, not demographic changes.

Keywords: 2017 6th congressional district special election; Brian Kemp; Department of Community Affairs; Department of Economic Development; Jon Ossoff; Karen Handel; NATO; Nathan Deal; Tom Price; economic protectionism; free trade; globalization; immigration; name recognition; nationalism; regulations; textile mill