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Interview with Mark Burkhalter, February 5, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:57 - Introduction to politics

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Partial Transcript: If you don't mind, can we go ahead and start talking a little about your childhood and your upbringing?

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter summarizes his early life in Johns Creek before it became a heavily suburban area, noting how his parents and stepfather shaped him. He explains that his political interests began in 1980, when he volunteered on Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign, and shortly afterward worked on Newt Gingrich's congressional staff.

Keywords: 1980 election; 1984 election; Buckhead, Georgia; Elliott Levitas; Jimmy Carter; North Fulton County, Georgia; Pat Swindall; Rome, Georgia; United States Department of State; University of Georgia; campaigning; doorknocking; global studies; insurance business; legislative director; overseas travel; real estate development; retail politics; urban growth

00:08:30 - Business in North Fulton County

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Partial Transcript: So what brought you back to the metro area?

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter talks about why he chose to leave Washington, D.C. and return to North Fulton County in 1984 to work in the real estate industry. Burkhalter discusses his contentions with the Fulton County government at that time as both a resident and a real estate developer in the area, particularly the "LOGTax" campaign to reduce the amount of property taxes that the county collected to give to Grady Hospital.

Keywords: 1990 census; DeKalb County, Georgia; Johns Creek, Georgia; Michael Lomax; Mitch Skandalakis; Roswell, Georgia; Tom Campbell; business relocation; campaigning; civic organizations; doorknocking; general contracting and development; high-density zoning; public school system

00:19:48 - Running for public office

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Partial Transcript: About that time was when those new seats started spawning off, and an opportunity to run for office came about.

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter explains why he decided to run for the Georgia House of Representatives in 1992, winning the seat that John Linder was vacating to run for Congress. Burkhalter posits that he had a landslide in the Republican primary not only because of his large campaign funding, but his ability to connect with voters personally by utilizing retail politics.

Keywords: Georgia Constitution; Grady Hospital; Grady tax; doorknocking; national government; representative government; state government; term limits

00:27:32 - North Fulton County issues

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Partial Transcript: So what were the major issues?

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter states that in the House of Representatives, he worked to fulfill the desires of north Fulton County voters who felt as though they did not have a voice on the local level. Burkhalter claims this is why he continually pushed for the incorporation of cities like Sandy Springs and Johns Creek throughout his legislative career.

Keywords: Campbell County, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; Fulton County government; Georgia constitutional amendment; Grady tax; House leadership; House of Representatives rules; Jan Jones; Larry Walker, Jr.; Milton County, Georgia; Republican majority; government services; local issues; self-governance; smart growth; south Fulton County, Georgia; transportation; urban development; urban sprawl

00:35:59 - Speakers of the Georgia House of Representatives

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Partial Transcript: But tell me about your experience in the minority.

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter recalls Tom Murphy's leadership style in the Georgia House of Representatives, which emphasized centralization of power and control under Speaker Murphy, leaving the committees, majority leader, and speaker pro tempore relatively weak. Burkhalter notes how this trend reversed when Republicans secured the House of Representatives, and Glenn Richardson as speaker returned control to the committees.

Keywords: Alpharetta, Georgia; Bill Heath; Bob Irvin; Buckhead, Georgia; Jack Connell; Jerry Keen; Johns Creek, Georgia; Larry Walker; Lynn Westmoreland; Republican caucus; Sonny Perdue; Steve Stancil; Terry Coleman; appropriations committee chairman; conservative Democrats; floor leader; institutional knowledge; legislative process; middle Georgia; minority leader; minority whip; party polarization; rules committee; south Georgia; state budget

00:47:05 - Becoming the majority party

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Partial Transcript: So tell me about the process about becoming the majority.

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter remembers the surprise and unpreparedness he and other Republicans felt after Sonny Perdue's victory in the 2002 gubernatorial race and the boons it brought to the Republican Party. Burkhalter then comments on the efforts he and Glenn Richardson took in the 2004 election to ensure that the House of Representatives flipped to Republican, on account of the court-drawn district maps removing the Democrats' advantage.

Keywords: Alec Poitevint; Bonaire, Georgia; Democratic Party of Georgia; Lynn Westmoreland; Republican legislative plan; Roy Barnes; Scott Ryles; Speaker of the House; United States Congress; candidate recruitment; executive director; floor leader; fundraising; minority leader; redistricting; seniority system; state Republican Party; state party chairman

00:53:27 - Glenn Richardson as Speaker of the House

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Partial Transcript: So there is the vote for speaker, and tell me how- obviously, you don't need to tell me names or anything, but how did the Speaker's race turn out.

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter talks about the battle in 2005 between him and Glenn Richardson for the position of Speaker of the House. He then praises Glenn Richardson, the victor, for his ability and skill as speaker, observing that Richardson laid the groundwork for future speakers like David Ralston to build from.

Keywords: Ben Harbin; Democratic Party of Georgia; Jan Jones; Jerry Keen; Terry Coleman; appropriations committee chairman; minority leader; speaker pro tempore; state budget

01:01:04 - Legislative achievements / 2001 redistricting

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Partial Transcript: What achievement- legislative achievement- are you most proud of during your time in the majority?

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter lists some of the projects he worked on in the House of Representatives that he believes have helped Georgians the most, including the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the incorporation of Johns Creek. He then briefly discusses the 2001 redistricting efforts to minimize Republican influence in the House, though he places most of the onus for relatively late Republican victories on Republican voters for consistently low turnout before 2002.

Keywords: Arthur Blank; Atlanta Falcons; Centennial Olympic Park; Georgia Democrats; Georgia Dome; Georgia World Congress Center; Rich McKay; Roy Barnes; college football; elections laws; gerrymandering; motel tax; multimember districts; packing; voter participation

01:07:56 - Parties in modern Georgia

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Partial Transcript: What about the dynamics of the Democratic Party now?

Segment Synopsis: Burkhalter states that both parties have polarized to the point of leaving behind moderate voters, and the extremism from one side leads to more anger and extremism on the other in a continual cycle. Burkhalter then comments about transportation in Georgia, which he sees as the primary issue that both parties are willing to tackle.

Keywords: 2017 6th Congressional district special election; Barack Obama; Cobb County, Georgia; Democratic Party of Georgia; Donald Trump; George Busbee; Glenn Richardson; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Joe Frank Harris; Jon Ossoff; Karen Handel; Roy Barnes; Zell Miller; bipartisanship; gerrymandering; governing priorities; job creation; national parties; party polarization; public transit; reelection