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Interview with Keith Mason, September 18, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:01:05 - Childhood and Upbringing

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Partial Transcript: I was wondering if we could start with your childhood and upbringing?

Segment Synopsis: Mason discusses his childhood, including what it was like to grow up in a political family and what got him interested in politics. He talks about the Democratic primary for the 1970 Georgia gubernatorial election from the perspective as a young person, including his ignorance to racial tension.

Keywords: 1960's; 1966 Georgia gubernatorial election; Bobby Kennedy; Howard Callaway; Lester Maddox; Richard Nixon; Snellville, Georgia; immigration from Atlanta

00:09:50 - Political Volunteering as a Adolescent

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Partial Transcript: So, what was the first campaign other than your uncle's...

Segment Synopsis: Mason shares his volunteering experiences as a young man, specifically campaigns for Jimmy Carter and Sam Nunn. He talks about his time on the 1974 Lieutenant Governor campaign trail and how Zell Miller took him under his wing. Mason discusses his high school experience at Marist High School, including his involvement in student council.

Keywords: 1972; 1974; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Marist High School; Page; Phillip Landrum; Sam Nunn; Student Class President; Zell Miller

00:22:09 - University of Georgia/1978 Lt. Governor Primary

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Partial Transcript: What took you from Marist to the University of Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Mason explains why he chose to attend the University of Georgia and how his time in politics influenced his decision. He recalls conversations with Zell Miller about what he should study. Mason talks about volunteering in the 1978 Lieutenant Governor re-election campaign for Zell Miller and how he used that to familiarize himself with his new home in Athens, Georgia.

Keywords: 10th Congressional District of Georgia; Athens, GA; Auburn University; Business Degree; Charles Bullock; Choosing a Major; Florida State University; Law School; Managing a political operation; Political Science; UGA; University of Georgia

00:33:30 - 1980 Senate Democratic Primary

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Partial Transcript: So, when did you first that Governor Miller was going to Challenge Senator Talmadge?

Segment Synopsis: Mason details his involvement in the 1980 Senate campaign for Zell Miller and his opinion on why Miller lost the run-off election. He opines what the 1980 general election for Senate would have looked like if Miller had faced Mack Mattingly instead of Herman Talmadge. Mason discusses his time away from political campaigns during the 1980s, including going to law school at the University of Georgia and surrounding himself with notable political figures.

Keywords: 1979; 1980; African-American vote; Blue Key; CNN Polls; Connell Stafford; Dick Morris; Earl Leonard; Gordon Giffin; Herman Talmadge; John Lewis; Lillian Lewis; Mack Mattingly; Sam Nunn's youth organization; Wyche Fowler; campaign funding; campaign rules while holding office; moderate electorate

00:47:37 - 1990 Georgia Gubernatorial Primary Election

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Partial Transcript: So, how did you get re-acquainted with Governor Miller in the lead up the the 90 [election]?

Segment Synopsis: Mason details his recruitment to join Zell Miller's staff for the 1990 gubernatorial race, including some changes he wanted to see in Miller's campaigning strategy. He discusses the role of younger staffers in the campaign and their strategy to win the nomination, which involved running on the idea of a state lottery.

Keywords: 1990; Andrew Young; Gas Tax; Jim Hunt; Lester Maddox; Media Communications; Norman Underwood,; Paul Begala; Pierre Howard; Political Transformation; Roy Barnes; Sales Tax; Sam Nunn; State Lottery; Virgil Williams; Voting Demographics; Zell Miller

01:07:03 - 1990 Georgia Gubernatorial Election

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Partial Transcript: So, the Miller campaign is successful in the primary...

Segment Synopsis: Mason recalls the feelings of Zell Miller's campaign about the republican party and of their chances of defeating Johnny Isakson in 1990. He discusses their talking points to draw voters away from Isakson and explains why Isakson won a couple of counties in southern Georgia.

Keywords: 1980's; 1990's; Campaign Strategy; Colquitt County, Georgia; Decatur County; Johnny Isakson; Republican Party in Georgia; Thomas County; Tift County

01:14:50 - Keith Mason's role during Zell Miller's Governorship

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Partial Transcript: So, you come into the Governor's mansion chief of staff...

Segment Synopsis: Mason talks about the "dream team" of politicians at top of the Georgia state government during Miller's Governorship and explains the inner-workings that took place between them.

Keywords: Business Friendly Democrats; Chief of Staff; Cutting Government Spending; Executive Secretary; Fred Taylor; Pierre Howard; Sam Nunn; Tom Coleman; Virgil Williams; Zell Miller

01:22:03 - Georgia Democratic and Republican Parties in the 1980s/1990s

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Partial Transcript: How would you describe the republican party during in that transition period...

Segment Synopsis: Mason describes the Republican ideology and approach to government during the 80s and 90s including their willingness to work with Democrats. He explains the relationship between the Democrat state party and Governor Miller.

Keywords: Bobby Kahn; Georgia Dome; Investment Projects; Lottery system; Political Respect; Progressive Republicans; Sales Tax; Tom Murphy

01:27:06 - Zell Miller's relationship with Bill Clinton

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Partial Transcript: Well, one of the close relationships that has been in the news recently...

Segment Synopsis: Mason explains Gordon Giffin's relationship with Zell Miller's campaign and using that relationship to unite the Miller side of the party with the Sam Nunn side. He then discusses changing the primary process in 1991 and how this unintentionally helped Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. Mason explains the progression of Miller and Clinton's relationship.

Keywords: 1990; Campaigning as a "ticket"; Douglas Wilder; Elections; Finance Chairman; Gordon Giffin; Reapportionment; Sam Nunn; Super Tuesday

01:43:19 - Georgia State Lottery

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Partial Transcript: So, when did you... We had the lottery going on that year, too.

Segment Synopsis: Mason recalls the strategies the Miller campaign used to get lottery passed in the statewide ballot including a populist message and republican support. Mason explains how the lottery helped Miller's re-election campaign and his transition to Washington D.C. once Clinton won the 1992 presidential election.

Keywords: Bipartisan issue; Changing the state flag; Hope Scholarship Families; Jon Macks; Micro-targeting; Populist messaging; Recession; Slush Fund; Voting Margins

01:53:52 - 1994 Midterms

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Partial Transcript: So, you were up in Washington in June, '93...

Segment Synopsis: Mason describes worrying about southern states transitioning toward Republicans citing members of Congress and Governors becoming more partisan even though they had often voted for Clinton's agenda, including welfare. He explains why there was an increased presence of the Republican Party in the 1980s and 1990s and why Democrats went along with the Republican redistricting strategy.

Keywords: Flint River Flood; Floods; George W. Bush; Increase in Partisanship; Matt Collins; Natural Disasters; Washington Establishment; Zell Miller

02:07:00 - Working Outside Politics/2000 Al Gore Campaign

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Partial Transcript: So, you had mentioned that you were leaving the Clinton...

Segment Synopsis: Mason summarizes his work as a public affairs strategist in Georgia after working in Washington D.C. and discusses his history with Roy Barnes, including supporting his 1998 Gubernatorial race. He compares Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign to Bill Clinton's campaigns and shares his thoughts on Roy Barnes' upset loss in 2002.

Keywords: Al Gore; Cathy Cox; Comparing Campaigns; Environmental Protection; James Carville; Lewis Massey; Mark Taylor; Matthew Dowd; Mckenna Long & Aldridge; Mike Thurmond; Public Affair Strategists; Roy Barnes; Thurbert Baker; Voting Demographics

02:23:01 - Democrats lasting power in New South Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Why were Georgia Democrats able to hold on to power...

Segment Synopsis: Mason discusses why Democrats were able to maintain their power in Georgia for much longer than Democrats in other southern states, which leads him to explain why the Republicans were able take control of the Governor's mansion in 2002. Mason talks about the differences between the strictly national political tribalism of the 1980s to now where it has seeped into every level of government.

Keywords: Changing Georgia State Flag; Economic Development; Nathan Deal; Risk Adverse Policy; Sonny Purdue; Stacey Abrams; Tribalism; Zell Miller; partisanism

02:29:54 - Future Shift in Georgia Political Power

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Partial Transcript: What do you think the biggest danger to the Republican Majority in this state [Georgia] is?

Segment Synopsis: Mason mentions his philosophy on why each party gets beat after a period of government control. He explains why the Democrats haven't been able to take back power in Georgia and talks about his prediction for the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race.

Keywords: "Farm system"; "King-Roy"; Inclusion; Political Power; Politician "Pipeline"; Pro-Investment; Roy Barnes; Social Tolerance; Voter Turnout