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Interview with Tharon Johnson, April 3, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:01:09 - Childhood/Early Political Career

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Partial Transcript: Um, I was wondering, just to begin, if you could tell me a little but about your childhood and growing up in Athens?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about being raised by a single mother in an income segregated Athens, Georgia. He discusses his academic career and how he got involved in politics. He details his early career in politics, including working on campaigns for John Lewis, Kasim Reed, and Barack Obama.

Keywords: 12th Congressional District; 2002 Election Cycle; Alisha Thomas Morgan; Barack Obama; Bill Campbell; Clarke Atlanta University; District Director; Economic Inequality; Hillary Clinton; Jim Messina; John Barrow; NAACP

00:10:28 - Public Affairs Consulting

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Partial Transcript: ...and that's where I really started my government relations...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson mentions his public affairs experience and explains how this helped him start his own company, Paramount Consulting Group. He discusses the impact of data in today's political campaigns, along with time management and retail politics.

Keywords: Cost-Benefit Analysis; Dentons; Greenberg Traurig; McKenna Long & Aldridge; Organization; Paramount Consulting Group

00:16:16 - 2009 and 2017 Atlanta Mayoral Elections

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Partial Transcript: With, with, the Mayoral race in 2009 there was a runoff...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes the strategies used to win the Mayoral elections in 2009 and 2017 in a diverse city such as Atlanta. He discusses Mary Norwood as an Independent and how her inability to distance herself from the Republican party hurt her elect-ability.

Keywords: Atlanta Demographics; Atlanta Mayoral Election; Barack Obama; Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton; Kasim Reed; Keisha Lance Bottoms; Mary Norwood; Voter Perception; Voter Registration; Voter Turnout

00:25:05 - Georgia State Democratic Party

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Partial Transcript: What level of interaction, if any, did your campaign either with...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson recalls potential coordination between the Georgia State Democratic Party and Democratic Mayoral candidates in 2009 and 2017. He discusses the inter-workings of the state Democratic party through the power shift of the early 2000's. He summarizes what the leader of the party should have strengths in, including fundraising and candidate recruitment.

Keywords: 2002 election cycle; 2016 election cycle; Campaign Advertising; Creating a Party Infrastructure; Kasim Reed; Keisha Lance Bottoms; Mary Norwood; Party Chairman; Party Hierarchy; Voter Turnout

00:31:46 - 2017 Special Election Races/Path to power in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: You mention some of the bright spots, um, 2017...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson shares some insight on why the Democrats took over a couple of state Senate and House seats that were held by Republicans in 2017. He mentions a potential approach to attract rural voters toward the Democratic party. He discusses strategy moving forward to try and bring rural white voters back into the Democrat party without alienating their own base, including localizing their messaging and policy proposals.

Keywords: Donald Trump; Education Funding; Georgia Elections; Grassroots Campaigning; Healthcare; High Voter Turnout; Hillary Clinton; Jen Jordan; Localization of policy; Messaging; Rural Voters; State House 117; State House 119; Transit; Transportation; Trump Backlash; Voting Trends

00:38:59 - Suburban Women Vote/Republican Policy Priorities

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Partial Transcript: We've mentioned rural voters and you mentioned some of the key issues...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson summarizes a political message that he believes will be able to target the college educated white suburban woman voter, which focuses on healthcare, education, and jobs. He discusses the policy priorities of Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly compared to Governor Nathan Deal.

Keywords: Adoption; Charter Schools; Discrimination; English Only Ballots; Illegal Immigration; Jon Ossoff; Nathan Deal; Progressive Republican; Public Education; Religious Freedom Restoration Act; Republican Leaning Independents; SB 129; Voter ID

00:46:38 - Weaknesses in the Political Parties in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: What do you think the greatest danger to the Republican party's majority status in this state is?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses policy points that could impact Republican power in Georgia including lack of diversity, environmentalism, and gun control. He then explains what Democrats can do to take back political power in Georgia such as crystallizing and localizing their message and appealing to the moderates and independents.

Keywords: Climate Change; DREAMers; Democrat Party; Diverse Leadership; Diversity; Environmentalism; Gun Control; Illegal Immigration; Immigration; Republican Party; School Shootings; Women in Leadership; Young Voter Support

00:51:08 - Donald Trump's impact on the Georgia Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: Taking a look back at 2016, do you think their will be a long term lasting impact...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes Donald Trump's impact on politics from a national and local perspective by using Georgia senators, David Purdue and Johnny Isakson, to show two sides of the Republican party. He details the impacts that Trump will have on the 2018 midterms and where Democrats could pick up seats.

Keywords: 2018 Election Cycle; Divided Republican Party; Donald Trump; Fran Millar; Georgia Republicans; Hillary Clinton; Jon Ossoff; Post Trump Republican Party; South East Georgia Voters; Suburban Voters; Voter Demographics

00:56:23 - Zell Miller's Legacy in the Democrat Party

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Partial Transcript: We, we mentioned Zell Miller earlier. What do you think that legacy of Georgia Democrats...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses Zell Miller's legacy as Georgia Governor by focusing on HOPE, welfare reform, and Leah Ward Sears. He talks about Miller's support of Republicans after leaving the Governor's office and his strength of compromise.

Keywords: Criticism of the Democratic Party; DFCS; Democratic Convention; Georgia Supreme Court; HOPE Scholarship; Republican Convention; Sam Nunn

00:59:55 - 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial Primary Candidates

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Partial Transcript: We're coming up on 2018, another election year as we've talked about...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the strengths of the Democrat and Republican primary candidates and their challenges with shifting from a primary to a general election. He talks about the challenge the Republican candidates will have following a progressive Republican Governor in Nathan Deal.

Keywords: African American Voter Turnout; Brian Kemp; Casey Cagle; Clay Tippins; Diversity; Donald Trump; Eddie Hayes; Education Reform; Expanding Transit; Gender; HOPE Scholorship; Hunter Hill; Lt. Governor Election; Mike Williams; Minority Leader; Progressive; Race; Stacey Adams; Stacey Evans