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Interview with Frank Strickland, December 18, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:37 - Joining Republican politics

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Partial Transcript: I was wondering if we could just begin talking about your childhood, your upbringing, education, and how you got to become involved in politics here in Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Strickland recalls how his early life impacted his future political career, particularly being raised by Republican parents. He then describes his first foray into politics--by campaigning for Bo Callaway's 1966 gubernatorial race.

Keywords: 1952 presidential election; Columbus, Georgia; Decatur, Georgia; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Ellis Arnall; Emory University School of Law; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Fulton County, Georgia; Lester Maddox; Nashville, Tennessee; Oscar Persons; United States Coast Guard; Vanderbilt University; stump speech; write-in campaign

00:10:44 - Campaigning for Richard Nixon and Paul Coverdell

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Partial Transcript: So that was your entry into Republican politics and party politics.

Segment Synopsis: Strickland remembers campaigning for Richard Nixon's 1968 presidential run, lauding Nixon's public speaking skills. Strickland then shares some anecdotes about his multiple occasions campaigning for Paul Coverdell's state senate races, contrasting the campaigning back then with what would be required nowadays.

Keywords: 1970 gubernatorial race; 9th Congressional district; Banks County, Georgia; Bo Callaway; Hal Suit; Jimmy Bentley; Joe Wilkinson; Matt Patton; Republican primary; Union County, Georgia; William Clark O'Kelley; bumper stickers; county chairmen; yard signs

00:18:28 - Growing the Georgia Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: What role did Senator Coverdell have in--the word I like to use is "modernizing" the Republican Party of Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Strickland discusses the roles Paul Coverdell and Mack Mattingly played in building the Georgia Republican Party in the late 1970s and early 1980s, particularly in building party infrastructure. He briefly notes the splits within the party during that time between the supporters of Ronald Reagan and supporters of George H.W. Bush.

Keywords: Fred Cooper; Gerald Ford; Matt Patton; Newt Gingrich; Peace Corps; senate minority leader; state party chairman

00:28:08 - Fallout of the 1988 Albany convention

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Partial Transcript: In '83, you became one of those vice chairmen.

Segment Synopsis: Strickland details the events of the 1988 state party convention in Albany, Georgia that led to a contested delegation being sent to the national convention for the Republican Party. With his knowledge as the then-assistant counsel for the state party in this case, Strickland explains why he believes the national committee made a poor decision in siding with Pat Robertson's supporters.

Keywords: "committee on contests"; 1988 presidential race; Bob Dole; Carl Gillis; Carolyn Meadows; Dublin, Georgia; Fred Cooper; George H.W. Bush; Jack Kemp; John Stuckey; Marguerite Williams; Matt Patton; Oscar Persons; Paul Coverdell; Republican National Committee; factionalism; national committeeman; national committeewoman; state party committee

00:38:24 - The Christian Rght in the Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: What do you think the short term--obviously it created lots of turmoil.

Segment Synopsis: Strickland considers the role the Christian right played in the Republican Party after 1988, concluding that their impact was short-lived because most members stopped engaging in party politics after Pat Robertson's candidacy. He compares the supporters' enthusiasm for only a particular candidate to Ron Paul's supporters in the 2012 election cycle.

Keywords: 1964 election; Barry Goldwater; Bob Dole; George H.W. Bush; Tea Party movement; social conservatism; state party chairman

00:43:17 - Miller v. Johnson

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Partial Transcript: But going into the 1990s, you were assistant counsel to the party with Oscar Persons, the general counsel.

Segment Synopsis: Strickland recalls the litigation he and Oscar Persons pushed against the 1991 congressional redistricting plans in Georgia, arguing that the 12th district, represented by Cynthia McKinney, was unconstitutionally drawn. He describes the process he underwent, including proposing a redrawn map to the federal court that had the approval of John Lewis and Newt Gingrich, the most senior Georgia Democrat and Republican congressmen.

Keywords: "communities of interest"; Augusta, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; Department of Justice; Savannah, Georgia; Voting Rights Act; amicus curiae brief; retrogression; state legislature

00:51:45 - Larios v. Cox

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Partial Transcript: I'm much more focused on the next round where we sued the state.

Segment Synopsis: Strickland details the voting rights litigation he proposed after the 2001 redistricting, which developed into the U.S. Supreme Court case Larios v. Cox. In this case, Republican voters claimed that 2001 redistricting efforts by Democrat leaders in Georgia had purposefully diluted Republican influences while strengthening Democrats, therefore allowing Democrats to retain majorities in the General Assembly despite only winning a third of the popular vote.

Keywords: "one-man-one-vote"; 2002 election; 2004 election; Georgia House of Representatives; Georgia Senate; Joseph Hatchet; Sonny Perdue; equal protections case; legislative function; north Georgia; party switching; retrogression; south Georgia

01:00:46 - Shelby County v. Holder

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Partial Transcript: What's the practical effect of the Shelby County case, 2013 case where the Supreme Court--I believe it was Section 5 was nullified by the government.

Segment Synopsis: Strickland explains the rationale of the United States Supreme Court when deciding the case Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down the triggers for Section 5 preclearance in the Voting Rights Act. Strickland analyzes the case's impact on redistricting, determining that although the effects have mainly been positive, many legislatures, including Georgia's, have used the decision to maximize a party's power through mid-decade redistricting.

Keywords: 2006 Voting Rights Act renewal; 2011 redistricting; Gill v. Whitford; Anne Lewis; Bryan Tyson; Department of Justice; coverage formula

01:10:53 - Threats to the party in power

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Partial Transcript: So zooming out a little bit, why do you think it was--I want to get your assessment--why the Democratic Party of Georgia was able to hold on to power at the legislative level, the governor's mansion--why were they able to hold on so long?

Segment Synopsis: Strickland elaborates on the factors he believes contributed to Democrats' losing political power in Georgia, namely weak candidates and divisive gerrymandering. He also warns Republicans that if they make the same mistakes Democrats did, then they will lose power as well.

Keywords: Larios v. Cox; Democratic primary; Jack Kingston; Max Cleland; Sanford Bishop; Saxby Chambliss; Sonny Perdue; candidate quality; demographic changes; opposition party; party switching; population growth; redistricting software

01:18:30 - Demographic change and redistricting

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Partial Transcript: What about demographic change?

Segment Synopsis: Strickland doubts Republicans will be able to redistrict away the demographic changes that threaten their incumbency, even without preclearance requirements, because the legislature is still bound by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as well as public opinion. Strickland observes that due to the complexities of redistricting, a computer program cannot sufficiently draw maps to meet constituents' needs, nor can a nominally nonpartisan commission truly remove the partisan nature of the process.

Keywords: "communities of interest"; "continuity of representation"; Larios v. Cox; Cobb County, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Henry County, Georgia; incumbency; minority districts; minority-majority; suburbinization