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Interview with Chip Lake, February 22, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:54 - Early life in Cobb County

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Partial Transcript: Chip, tell me about your childhood growing up.

Segment Synopsis: Lake recalls his early life in Cobb County, a stronghold of the Republican Party in the Democratic Georgia. He talks about campaigning for local Republican candidates in high school and college, and receiving a harsh introduction to the one-party system of the South when his candidates continued to lose.

Keywords: Auburn University; Delta Airlines; Justin Fields; Kennesaw, Georgia; North Cobb High School; Steve Thompson; cable news; conservatism; dial-up internet; doorknocking; news access; real estate; two-party competition

00:07:14 - Beginning a political career

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Partial Transcript: So you became an aid to Earl Ehrhart?

Segment Synopsis: Lake explains that he began working in politics by interning for then-state senator Rusty Paul, while networking with other prominent Republicans. He then talks about briefly leaving Georgia to work for Republican campaigns across the nation, first for Steve Forbes' 2000 presidential campaign then for Rick Lazio for New York's senate seat.

Keywords: 1996 election; 2000 election; Al Gore; Bob Dole; Bob Irvin; Department of Housing and Urban Development; Freedom and Free Enterprise Political Action Committee; Garland Pinholster; George W. Bush; Hillary Clinton; Jack Kemp; Mike Evans; Pierre Howard; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; minority leader; political director; staff assistant

00:15:13 - 2002 elections in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: So I said "I'm moving back to Georgia."

Segment Synopsis: Lake talks about returning to Georgia, working on Phil Gingrey's Congressional campaign in 2002 as a general consultant, noting that Gingrey's campaign was surprised when Roger Kahn succeeded over political veteran Buddy Darden in the Democratic primary runoff. Lake also comments on the 2002 senatorial and gubernatorial elections, remarking that the surprise victories of Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Sonny Perdue demonstrated that voter turnout could make both internal and external polling unreliable.

Keywords: Bob Barr; Bob Harriet; Boy Scouts of America; Cecil Staton; Cobb County, Georgia; Earl Ehrhart; John Linder; Lynn Westmoreland; Marietta, Georgia; National Republican Congressional Committee; commercial real estate; fundraising; general consulting; legislative office building; minority leader; minority whip; polling data; public facilities; redistricting

00:25:04 - Demographic change in Georgia / wave elections

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Partial Transcript: Jumping ahead into sort of a nuts-and-bolts question.

Segment Synopsis: Lake ponders the effects that the demographic changes in Georgia will eventually have on state politics, believing that Democrats may soon break through in a statewide race before returning to two-party competition. He then predicts that 2018 will be a wave election in favor of Democrats and that such a wave will have an effect down-ballot on the local and statewide races in Georgia.

Keywords: 1994 election; 2008 Senate runoff election; 2010 election; 2014 election; 2018 election; Democratic Party of Georgia; Georgia polling; John Barrow; John Watson; Kevin McCarthy; Lynn Westmoreland; Mike Keown; Sanford Bishop; candidate recruitment; demographic change; incumbency advantage; national economy; national security; open seat election; party committee; population growth; presidential approval; runoff election; scandal; statewide election; voter behavior

00:32:37 - Donald Trump and the 2016 election

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about that a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: Lake comments on how Donald Trump's election as president has changed the Republican Party and thus the political landscape, both nationwide and in local politics. Lake also notes that Trump's election in 2016 was anomalous from other presidential elections in Georgia in that despite losing prominent suburban counties like Cobb County, Gwinnett County, and Henry County, Donald Trump still won the state due to massive voter turnout for him in rural areas.

Keywords: 2016 Republican primary; George H.W. Bush; George W. Bush; Ronald Reagan; Sandy Hook shooting; Washington, D.C.; bump stocks; free trade; globalization; gun control; national Republican Party; open immigration; party leader; public opinion; rural Georgia; suburban vote; suburbia

00:39:51 - College-educated voters in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: It's interesting, we can go back and talk about the "yellow-dog Democrats", the so-called night-and-day coalition.

Segment Synopsis: Lake states that of the demographic changes in Georgia, the move of college-educated away from the Republican Party should be the most worrying for Georgia Republicans, as those voters were once the core of Republican support. However, Lakes also mentions that some Georgia Republicans have moderated their positions on issues such as criminal justice reform and transportation to bring these voters back to the Republican side.

Keywords: 1980 election; 1992 election; 2018 election; African-American voters; Casey Cagle; Cobb County, Georgia; David Ralston; Jody Hice; Karen Handel; Mack Mattingly; Mitt Romney; Nathan Deal; Paul Coverdell; Rob Woodall; Roy Moore; Saxby Chambliss; Trump-Russia investigation; campaigning; congressional seats; metro Atlanta; mid-term elections; political outsiders; rural voters; state legislature; state party

00:50:33 - Threats to Republican dominance in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: A question I like to ask folks: the Democratic Party of Georgia was in power for so long.

Segment Synopsis: Lake states that Democrats will most easily start winning victories in Georgia when the Republicans become complacent, believing that because Republicans easily won election before, they will continue to win. Lake predicts that the anti-establishment base of both parties, along with increasing polarization, will soon lead to a third-party candidate receiving electoral votes for the first time in a presidential election.

Keywords: 2002 elections; 2018 midterm elections; National Review; Weekly Standard; Bernie Sanders; Chuck Schumer; Democratic Party leadership; Donald Trump; Eric Cantor; Fox News; John Boehner; Kevin McCarthy; Lynn Westmoreland; Nancy Pelosi; Republican Party establishment; Tea Party movement; bump stocks; groupthink; local races; party divisions; pragmatism; statewide election; wave election

01:01:00 - The "anti-establishment" nature of modern politics

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Partial Transcript: So, we were talking about- I was speaking with Mark Burkhalter, Speaker Burkhalter, who is an expert on British politics.

Segment Synopsis: Lake explains that the rising "anti-establishment" sentiment in contemporary American politics stems from both an increasing polarization of the parties and the loss of trust in traditional media, particularly cable news. He laments that although there are a few issues state politicians may be able to reach across the aisle for, both parties have largely been nationalized and are just as divided over state politics as Congress is over national politics.

Keywords: Brexit; Buddy Darden; CNN; David Ralston; Donald Trump; European politics; Evan McMullan; Fox News; France; Georgia General Assembly; Jeff Zucker; Jeremy Corbyn; Jimmy Carter; John Kasich; Labour Party; Marco Rubio; Marine La Pen; ORVIS targetting system; ObamaCare repeal; Roy Barnes; Rupert Murdoch; Sam Nunn; Speaker of the House; Stacey Evans; Vincent Fort; advertisement space; atomization of news; candidate recruitment; classical liberalism; fundraising; gatekeeping; governor; healthcare reform; institutional trust; lieutenant governor; local politics; medical marijuana; national elections; national politics; nationalized parties; party development; primary election; social media

01:11:53 - 2021 redistricting process

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Partial Transcript: Looking ahead to 2021, the Republican Party benefited significantly from one, the mid-decade redistricting.

Segment Synopsis: Lake elaborates on the numerous, even contradictory, requirements in the redistricting process, such as incumbency, race, and partisanship, though he questions whether political gerrymandering will withstand scrutiny by the Supreme Court. He analyzes the effects redistricting after the 2020 census may have on rural Georgia, as the loss of population in those areas to Atlanta will drastically weaken them politically.

Keywords: 2011 redistricting; Barack Obama; Buckhead, Georgia; Emmet Bondurant; Eric Holder; Jason Carter; John Roberts; Supreme Court of the United States; city of Atlanta; demographic change; district size; federal courts; metro Atlanta; mid-decade redistricting; racial divisions; racial gerrymandering; south Georgia; special election; wedge issues

01:19:26 - Party mobilization going into 2018

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Partial Transcript: In Georgia- and I don't remember the specific numbers- but this is a state that has an extremely high number of uncontested seats.

Segment Synopsis: Lake says that the victories Democrats received in special elections, especially Doug Jones's victory over Roy Moore for the Alabama senate seat, has energized the party and that Democratic candidates believe that cannot lose in 2018. Lake contrasts this with Georgia Republicans going into 2018, observing that many Republican candidates are either vacating their seats or retiring from politics altogether in preparation for what they see as unwinnable elections.

Keywords: Brookhaven, Georgia; David Shafer; Georgia Bulldogs; Hunter Hill; Jake Fromm; Justin Fields; Kirby Smart; Nick Saban; Scott Brown; Southeastern Conference; University of Georgia; candidate recruitment; crowded primary elections; pendulum effect; retiring incumbents; suburbs; uncontested elections