Interview with John Watson, April 24, 2018

Collection: Two-Party Georgia Oral History Project

Dublin Core


John Watson grew up in Centreville in Fairfax County, Virginia, and attended college at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Watson moved to Atlanta in 1993. He worked on Bob Barr’s successful 1994 congressional and joined the Georgia Republican Party as finance director in 1995. Watson joined Republican Sonny Perdue’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign as chief consultant after first working on former Cobb County Commission Chair Bill Byrne’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid. He became Governor Sonny Perdue’s chief of staff in 2003 and resigned in 2006. Watson remained active in Nathan Deal and David Perdue’s campaigns before becoming the Georgia Republican Party chairman in 2017. He declined to seek a second term and stepped down in 2019. Watson is currently partner at Impact Public Affairs (formerly Massey, Watson & Hembree) in Atlanta.

Watson discusses growing up in northern Virginia, attending Wake Forest University, and moving to Atlanta to pursue a career in Republican politics. He talks about his time on Bob Barr’s 1994 congressional campaign and working for Rusty Paul at the Georgia Republican Party. Watson explains his role in and thoughts on the 2002 gubernatorial election as well as his tenure as Governor Sonny Perdue’s chief of staff. He explains why he decided to run for chair of the Georgia Republican Party as well as the state of the party organization he inherited in 2017. The interview closes with Watson’s views on Georgia political history and his assessment of both major political parties and their prospects in upcoming elections.






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John Watson and Ashton Ellett, “Interview with John Watson, April 24, 2018,” UGA Special Collections Libraries Oral Histories, accessed July 25, 2024,