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Interview with J. Randy Evans, March 1, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:01:10 - Early life and introduction to politics

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Partial Transcript: I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your upbringing, your childhood, growing up, and how you got involved in politics.

Segment Synopsis: Evans describes his early life in Dublin, Georgia, growing up in a relatively poor family before a success in a scholastic debate earned him a scholarship to West Georgia College. Evans mentions that his fascination with politics began as a student of Newt Gingrich there in 1978, volunteering for Gingrich's first successful campaign for Congress that same year.

Keywords: 1974 election; 1976 election; Cobb County, Georgia; Douglas County, Georgia; Houston County, Georgia; Jimmy Carter; John Stuckey; Rockledge, Georgia; University of Georgia School of Law; Warner Robins Air Force Base; Watergate scandal; candidate recruitment; collegiate debate; county commissioner; county party chairman; education system; mock trial; moot court; party organization; school superintendent

00:06:55 - Strengthening the Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: So tell me how you went about- in the 1980s, rebuilding the Republican Party in Douglas County and in West Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Evans recalls his role in building up the Republican Party as the party chairman in Douglas County and then as the chairman for the Sixth Congressional District. He details his plan as recruiting and electing candidates for local office then, with the support of those local officials and Newt Gingrich, running candidates for the state legislature against more firmly entrenched Democratic incumbents.

Keywords: Arthur Bolton; Carroll County, Georgia; Cobb County, Georgia; Coweta County, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; Democratic primary; Fulton County, Georgia; GOPAC; Jim Steel; Lynn Westmoreland; Nathan Deal; Skin Edge; Sonny Perdue; candidate bench; coalition-building; county commissioner; district attorney; general election; local campaigns; local elections; party infrastructure; sheriff; state legislature; voter turnout

00:14:26 - Paul Coverdell and fundraising

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Partial Transcript: One of the people you've mentioned- Newt Gingrich, Speaker Gingrich, numerous times- one of the other people who was critical in the party during this time: Paul Coverdell.

Segment Synopsis: Evans remembers Paul Coverdell and the essential role he played in building up the Georgia Republican Party through organization and fundraising, efforts aided by Jay Morgan as the state Republican Party's executive director. Evans also talks about what brought rural white voters into the Republican caucus after being solidly Democratic for a century.

Keywords: 1976 Democratic National Convention; 1978 elections; 1980 election; Atlanta suburbs; Democratic establishment; Fortune 500 companies; LaGrange, Georgia; Mack Mattingly; Republican fundraising; Republican presidents; Ronald Reagan; Tommy Irvin; affluence; banks; barbeques; debating; demographics; exurbs; farmers; grassroots organization; law firms; local elections; national elections; party organization; political patronage; rural Republicans; small business; state party fundraising; town halls

00:22:38 - Technology and modern party organization

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Partial Transcript: Why do you think- you mentioned earlier the importance of party organization.

Segment Synopsis: Evans describes how despite changes in the political landscape, the two-party system ensures the parties will adapt to survive and recapture the realigning electorate. He does note, however, how modern technology has changed campaigning itself, making party organization and communication of issues easier and more effective than ever before.

Keywords: 2012 election; Citizens United v. FEC; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Donald Trump; Facebook; Hubert Humphrey; Lyndon B. Johnson; Newt Gingrich; Republican national committeeman; Second Amendment; abortion; gay marriage; nomination; party platform; party transformation; political realignment; selective messaging; single-issue voters; social media; voter realignment; voter targeting

00:28:57 - Social conservatives in the Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: That's a good segue back to the 1980s.

Segment Synopsis: Evans explains that social conservatives did not agree with the policies the Democrats espoused in the 1970s and conservative Republicans such as Ronald Reagan convinced them to switch to the Republican Party. Evans laments the growing pains and infighting the Republican Party experienced in the 1988 presidential party, but he concludes that much of the friction could have been avoided had the established Republicans been more receptive and inclusive of the religious conservatives.

Keywords: Albany, Georgia; Pat Robertson; abortion; family values; gun control; motivated voters; open seats; political patronage; religious right; social issues; southern Democrats; spoils system; state party convention; television; two-party system

00:35:09 - GOPAC and the Republican Revolution

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Partial Transcript: The Republican Party in the 1990s, that's such an important decade in terms of electing congressmen, becoming competitive statewide.

Segment Synopsis: Evans articulates his belief that the explosion of Republican congressmen in the 1990s in Georgia was an unintended side-effect of Tom Murphy's desire to redistrict Newt Gingrich out of the previous sixth congressional district. He then elaborates on what GOPAC was and how its programs served as the catalyst for the nationwide Republican Revolution and the Contract with America in 1994.

Keywords: 1991 redistricting; Bartow County, Georgia; Bo Callaway; Bob Barr; Buddy Darden; Cedartown, Georgia; Chattahoochee National Park; Cobb County, Georgia; Columbus, Georgia; Mac Collins; Paulding County, Georgia; Polk County, Georgia; Republican base; Speaker of the House; Warner Robins Air Force Base; cassette tapes; cronyism; entrepreneurship; ideology; military bases; party infrastructure; party platform; subcommittees

00:43:19 - Republicans in statewide races

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Partial Transcript: You talked a bit earlier about competing statewide.

Segment Synopsis: Evans lists the multiple factions within the Georgia Republican Party, including the ideological conservatives led by Newt Gingrich, the "country club Republicans" led by Paul Coverdell, and the social conservatives led by Ralph Reed. Evans explains that the sudden breakthrough of Republicans as competitive statewide candidates in the 1990s and 2000s was due to the many factions of Republicanism uniting under one banner to elect the party's candidates.

Keywords: 1986 gubernatorial race; 1990 gubernatorial race; 1992 senate race; 1994 gubernatorial race; 2008 presidential election; 2016 election; Barack Obama; Donald Trump; Guy Davis; Guy Millner; Hillary Clinton; Joe Frank Harris; Johnny Isakson; Nathan Deal; Roy Barnes; Sonny Perdue; Zell Miller; constituencies; local elections; party organization; party switching; political science; state party chairman

00:49:28 - Georgia state elections board

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Partial Transcript: You came on board as party counsel when Ralph became chairman?

Segment Synopsis: Evans discusses his time on the state's election board after being appointed to the position by Ralph Reed, detailing the various ways he witnessed the integrity of the ballot results being compromised, either through malice, negligence, or a lack of common procedure. Evans provides his own anecdote of the potential consequences insecure elections could have, with Newt Gingrich's tight 1990 reelection as the main example.

Keywords: The Gentleman from Georgia; Alec Poitevint; Chatham County, Georgia; Clayton County, Georgia; Coweta County, Georgia; David Worley; Democratic primary; Dick Cheney; Dodge County, Georgia; Douglas County, Georgia; Fayette County, Georgia; George H.W. Bush; Heard County, Georgia; Mel Steely; Polk County, Georgia; Secretary of Defense; Troup County, Georgia; corruption; general election; minority whip; party general counsel; voter fraud

00:59:00 - Republicans as a governing party

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Partial Transcript: What role did you play- we talked about Sonny Perdue becoming governor in 2002.

Segment Synopsis: Evans recalls the legitimacy and downballot coattails Sonny Perdue brought to the Republican Party with his election as governor in 2002. Evans then talks about Nathan Deal's influence on business in Georgia and the reforms only a popular and core Republican like Deal could have made to Georgia's criminal justice system without massive blowback.

Keywords: 1990 gubernatorial election; 1994 gubernatorial election; Cathy Cox; Guy Millner; HOPE Scholarship; Johnny Isakson; Mark Taylor; Roy Barnes; Zell Miller; business community; candidate recruitment; college education; criminal justice reform; cronyism; film industry; fiscal responsibility; fluke election; government accountability; mass incarceration; minority party; state flag; state judiciary; vacancies

01:06:05 - Bipartisanship / Threats to Republican rule

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Partial Transcript: Are there issues that Republicans and Democrats- we're in an age of historic partisanship.

Segment Synopsis: Evans states that Republicans and Democrats can work together on numerous issues so long as there is trust and agreement between the parties involved, citing Nathan Deal and Kasim Reed as an example of mutual trust enabling bipartisan cooperation. Evans then contemplates the factors that could lead to the Republican Party falling from dominance in Georgia, noting that although demographic change of the state, especially in suburban counties, may be a factor, it does not guarantee Republicans' rule is waning.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Cobb County, Georgia; Donald Trump; Georgia Democrats; Gwinnett County, Georgia; John Boehner; Michigan; Nancy Pelosi; Ohio; Pennsylvania; Republican Revolution; Stacey Abrams; Tennessee; Wisconsin; abortion; black voters; cultural issues; majority party; mayor of Atlanta; minority leader; national politics; partisan issues; partisanship; party control; party life cycle; political correctness; polling; religious liberty; voter enthusiasm

01:15:24 - The Republican Party under Donald Trump

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Partial Transcript: What do you think the- you talked about the transformation of the party, the realignment around-

Segment Synopsis: Evans claims that while Donald Trump has certainly changed the governing priorities of the Republican Party, it is a typical form of party realignment and is not an irregular or extraordinary event. He estimates that Trump's realignment of Republican priorities will have limited effects in state politics, but it may have weakened the Democrats' criticisms and arguments against Republicanism.

Keywords: 2018 midterm elections; George W. Bush; Georgia H.W. Bush; NAFTA; National Rifle Association; Newt Gingrich; Ronald Reagan; Second Amendment; deficit spending; economic growth; free trade; global defense; immigration policy; presidential coattails; reapportionment; spending cuts; state politics

01:22:04 - Future of Georgia politics

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Partial Transcript: The special elections here in Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Evans says that the special elections in Georgia in 2017 and 2018 are not adequate predictors of the 2018 or 2020 general elections, noting that it is hard to predict far-off elections with a dynamic and constantly-changing electorate. Evans believes that elections such as the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial race and the 2016 presidential race demonstrate that the better fundraiser is not guaranteed election, so Georgia Democrats should not laud their fundraising skills as proof of future victories.

Keywords: "anti-establishment"; 2017 6th congressional district; Buckhead, Georgia; Donald Trump; French National Front; George Busbee; Hillary Clinton; Jen Jordan; Jeremy Corbyn; Joe Frank Harris; Jon Ossoff; Karen Handel; Marine La Pen; Nathan Deal; National Republican Congressional Committee; Peter principle; Republican National Committee; Roy Barnes; Sonny Perdue; campaign volunteers; expendable income; grassroots organization; populism; technology; yard signs