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Interview with Chuck Clay, December 14, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:40 - Early life

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Partial Transcript: Tell me a little bit about, just to begin with, your childhood and upbringing.

Segment Synopsis: Clay discusses being raised in a military family, particularly how being transient every two or three years shaped his personality. He also talks about his education, noting why he chose to attend the University of Georgia School of Law despite few attachments to the state.

Keywords: 1960 presidential election; 1973 oil crisis; American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; Atlanta, Georgia; Bo Callaway; John F. Kennedy; Steve Clay; Tampa, Flordida; United States Air Force; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

00:10:58 - Moving to Cobb County

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Partial Transcript: All joking aside, what was it like when you finished law school- what was it like getting into your early professional career?

Segment Synopsis: Clay tells of moving to Marietta after applying for the a job in the solicitor general's office in Cobb County. He lists some of the major players in Cobb, particularly Marietta, during the 1970s and 1980s.

Keywords: 1980 senate race; Cobb County Times; Marietta Daily Journal; Athens, Georgia; Dean Rusk; Herb Rivers; Leo Frank; Lockheed-Martin; Mack Mattingly; Otis Brumby; Tom Scott; corporate law; population growth

00:18:44 - Divisions of Cobb County

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned the Talmadge-Mattingly race- 1980.

Segment Synopsis: Clay describes the differences between the different "sections" of Cobb County- north, south, east, and west. Clay also lists some of the leading figures in both the Democratic Party and Republican Party in Cobb County.

Keywords: Acworth, Georgia; African-American community; Al Burruss; Al Cochran; Bob Dole; Buddy Darden; Emory University; Herb Rivers; Joe Mack Wilson; Johnny Isakson; Kennesaw, Georgia; Marietta, Georgia; Ray Gary; Roy Barnes; Sally Newbill; Smyrna, Georgia; Steve Thompson; University of Georgia; University of Virginia; district attorney; population growth; suburbs; traffic court

00:29:01 - Joining the Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: It seems like what you're saying- you don't strike me from what I've heard as ideological.

Segment Synopsis: Clay defends his decision to join the minority Republican Party by saying the Republican Party, at that time, was more accepting of different groups, namely African-Americans. He then talks about the governing priorities of both Democrats and Republicans when each had the reigns of power.

Keywords: "Yankees"; Alec Poitevint; Bo Callaway; Carl Harrison; Department of Justice; Dorothy Felton; Dwight Eisenhower; Eric Tannenblatt; Fred Cooper; GOPAC; George Busbee; George H.W. Bush; Georgia World Congress Center; Guy Millner; Jimmy Carter; Joe Frank Harris; Julian Bond; Kil Townsend; Lee Atwater; MAXBLACK; Mike Egan; Newt Gingrich; Otis Brumby; Paul Coverdell; Sonny Perdue; Tom Murphy; candidate recruitment; conservative Democrats; local elections; rural counties; state flag

00:38:23 - Government of Cobb County

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Partial Transcript: That's sort of your path.

Segment Synopsis: Clay describes the influence the local public officials, particularly those in the courthouse, held in Cobb County. Clay also discusses Cobb County's population boom since the 1970s, despite the closure of the Lockheed-Martin plant during that time.

Keywords: Bell Bomber; Ernest Barrett; Harry Ingram; Mike Egan; Pierre Howard; Roy Barnes; TSPLOST; county commissioner; public-private partnerships; solicitor's office

00:49:33 - Service in the Georgia legislature

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Partial Transcript: Some people talk about the relationships they had with--take for instance, the Georgia House, with Speaker Tom Murphy.

Segment Synopsis: Clay recollects his service in the Georgia legislature, remembering fondly the bipartisanship between both parties during those eras. He also gives several anecdotes from his tenure in office, including helping visitors meet some of the civil rights leaders serving as Democrats in the legislature.

Keywords: Al Scott; Americus, Georgia; Andrew Young; Arthur Langford; David Scott; Ed Perry; Georgia Department of Transportation; Georgia Senate; Horace Tate; Ralph Abernathy; Ryburn Clay

00:55:12 - Growth of the Republican Party / Transportation

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Partial Transcript: So you got there in '88, and--

Segment Synopsis: Clay comments that the "grassroots" method of growing the Republican Party--electing strong candidates in local races then working up-ticket- is what allowed Republicans to grow outside of urban areas in the 1980s and 1990s. He also tells of ways he and other legislators wished to remedy transportation issues in Georgia, also noting what he believes would solve current problems in transportation.

Keywords: 1966 election; Bo Callaway; Bremen, Georgia; Carl Harrison; Chamber of Commerce; Joe Frank Harris; Johnny Isakson; Rotary Club; Sally Newbill; Skin Edge; business community; grassroots organization; local organizations; tax revenue; urban caucus

01:02:24 - Supremacy of the Georgia Democratic Party

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Partial Transcript: Was it simply inertia?

Segment Synopsis: Clay credits Democrats holding on their positions in Georgia to effectively incorporating the Populist movement into the Party, as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs that aided rural voters. Clay then criticizes the admiration for Confederate leaders and symbols in Georgia, which he believes also aided the Democrats, who typically supported such admiration.

Keywords: Bob Barr; Duke University; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Georgia Power; Georgia World Congress Center; James Longstreet; National Collegiate Athletic Association; Olympic Games; Populist Party; Robert E. Lee; Roy Barnes; Rural Electrification Act; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tom Watson; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Washington and Lee University; Zell Miller; business community; state flag

01:13:03 - The Christian right and cultural conservatism

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Partial Transcript: To make a hard transition back to hard-nose politics, you come in '88--really the introduction of the Christian right, the religious right, into Republican politics.

Segment Synopsis: Clay reflects on the influx of evangelical Christians into the Republican Party, starting with Pat Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign. Clay believes that the impact of this shift can be seen today, with a wing of the Republican Party of Georgia focusing on cultural issues before all others.

Keywords: "yellow dog Democrats"; 1988 state party convention; Albany, Georgia; Alec Poitevint; Bob Irvin; Cobb County, Georgia; George W. Bush; Joe Frank Harris; Lewis Massey; Mack Mattingly; Matt Towery; Paul Coverdell; Pierre Howard; Roy Moore; Skin Edge; Tom Phillips; credentials committee; culture war; religious liberty; suburban voters; transportation

01:21:58 - Becoming state party chairman

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Partial Transcript: I went back and I was looking at the records and the sources--you became state party chair in '99.

Segment Synopsis: Clay explains why he decided to run as chairman of the Republican Party in 1999 and why he won the election relatively peacefully. He elaborates that the party suffered major defeats in statewide offices in 1998, which indicated to party members that a change in leadership was needed, and they saw Clay as the man to fill the position.

Keywords: David Ralston; John Teasley; Mark Taylor; Michael Thurmond; Mitch Skandalakis; Paul Coverdell; Rusty Paul; Thurbert Baker; party politics

01:27:17 - Aftermath of Coverdell's death

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about that.

Segment Synopsis: Clay recalls the immediate aftermath of Senator Paul Coverdell's death in office, particularly the scramble to find a suitable replacement to run against Zell Miller, who was appointed by the governor to fill the vacancy. He notes that the different factions of the Republican Party all supported different candidates, though none initially favored the eventual Republican nominee, Mack Mattingly.

Keywords: "Rockefeller Republican"; 2000 Republican national convention; 2000 state party convention; Eric Tanenblatt; Fred Cooper; Lewis Jordan; Tom Perdue

01:35:46 - Republicans as a governing party

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Partial Transcript: So you know, zooming out a little bit, we've been talking about your personal experiences in the party.

Segment Synopsis: Clay believes Georgia Republicans currently focus primarily on maintaining fiscal conservatism and pro-life efforts, citing the party leadership as steering the party in this course. Clay compares Republicans' focuses on governing with previous Democratic governors, particularly George Busbee.

Keywords: Andrew Young; Civil Rights Movement; Hosea Williams; John Watson; Lester Maddox; Ralph Abernathy; transportation

01:41:25 - Ideological purity in the Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: Parties--how do we govern?

Segment Synopsis: Clay warns that the increasing move in the Republican Party toward an ideologically pure conservatism, particularly on social issues, will threaten the party's electoral success. He summarizes the Republicans as alienating certain groups of people, particularly Hispanic and LGBT voters, while relying primarily on the elderly white vote.

Keywords: Cobb County, Georgia; Donald Trump; Georgia Tech; Log Cabin Republicans; Newt Gingrich; Pat Robertson; Ronald Reagan; racial diversity

01:50:48 - Donald Trump and his politics

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Partial Transcript: Well, that brings me to the next question.

Segment Synopsis: Clay notes how Donald Trump's policies and political brand are a departure from the Republican Party's typical models of Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes. Clay contrasts Trump's divisiveness with his predecessor, Barack Obama, whom Clay sees as a generally unifying figure in American politics.

Keywords: Affordable Care Act; Barack Obama; Bartow County, Georgia; Cherokee County, Georgia; Cobb County, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; Forsyth County, Georgia; Fulton County, Georgia; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Hillary Clinton; Jon Ossoff; Ku Klux Klan; Medicaid; NATO; National Guard; Nazi Party; Roy Moore; The Enlightenment; Tom Price; exurbs; free trade; history; immigration; mainstream media; suburbs

02:08:02 - Donald Trump's appeal

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Partial Transcript: Well, I was talking to Governor Barnes--I don't remember how we got on the question- he said that were it not for an Obama presidency, there would not have been a Trump presidency.

Segment Synopsis: Clay analyzes Donald Trump's appeal to blue-collar and working class voters, concluding that Trump speaks to their concerns about future economic security for them and their family. Clay rejects the idea that Trump's popularity was entirely a reaction to Barack Obama's presidency.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; Dwight Eisenhower; Great Recession; John F. Kennedy; Ronald Reagan; Roy Barnes; Social Security; communication; mainstream media; pensions; worker's compensation

02:16:19 - Dwindling faith in institutions

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Partial Transcript: It gets to maybe a meta-level question, but you've talked about government as either a good actor or a bad actor, institutions--

Segment Synopsis: Clay discusses the seeming increase in rejection of social institutions in modern politics, be it mainstream media, local organizations, or even political parties themselves. He believes a part of this is the failure of such institutions to address peoples' needs adequately, or that other means, particularly technology, supplant these institutions instead.

Keywords: 401k; Twilight of the Elites; Camilla, Georgia; Chris Hayes; Dwight Eisenhower; Kiwanis Club; Kroger; Lester Holt; New Deal; Rotary Club; Soviet Union; Walter Cronkite; globalization; healthcare; logistics; military-industrial complex; multiculturalism; pensions; social compact; teachers

02:35:30 - Republican candidates / Higher education

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Partial Transcript: How can we connect in this conversation the role of political parties?

Segment Synopsis: Clay describes what he believes allowed the Republican Party to overtake the Democrats: enthusiastic, skilled, and quality candidates. He lists some of the Republicans he thinks had fit this mold. During this, Clay proclaims the benefits of Republican support for higher education in Georgia, detailing the ways each college or university has helped Georgia grow.

Keywords: 1998 election; 2002 election; Aflac; Al Burruss; Al Scott; Chamber of Commerce; Cherokee County, Georgia; Clayton County, Georgia; Cobb County, Georgia; Columbus State University; David Whirley; Don Cheeks; Douglas County, Georgia; Forsyth County, Georgia; Frank Albert; Fulton County, Georgia; Georgia Southern University; Georgia State University; Georgia Tech; Guy Millner; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Henry County, Georgia; Jack Hill; Joey Loudermilk; Johnny Isakson; Kil Townsend; Mike Egan; Newton County, Georgia; Paulding County, Georgia; Sonny Perdue; Southern Polytechnic State University; Synovus; Ted Land; Tom Buck; University of Georgia; Valdosta State University; Warren Harren; engineering; female voters; local office; net neutrality