Administrative staff, Cory, Gayle, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Humor, Travel, U.S. Senate campaign (1982), U.S. Senate culture
David E. Johnson was born on July 20, 1947, to Evelyn Irene (Hale) and Frank Tivis Johnson in Hardtner, Kansas. His father operated a grain elevator and his mother worked at a department store. He was raised in Enid, Oklahoma, attending Enid High School, where he excelled at debate, and was graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism. He worked for Ed Muskie’s 1972 presidential campaign in the “boiler room” and on his Intergovernmental Relations Committee from 1972 to 1978, working with Al From. He then worked for the Carter administration and for the Department of Health and Human Services. He was administrative assistant to George Mitchell from 1981 to 1984. After a period of a few months in the governmental relations office of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, he became executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). Since 1987 until the time of this interview, worked in a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm; he also held the position of chair of the Board of Directors of the Mitchell Institute.
Interview includes discussion of: the Muskie 1972 presidential race; working for the Carter administration; his interview with Senator Mitchell for the administrative assistant position in the coffee shop of the Portland Airport; arriving in the Senate office without anyone having been informed that he was hired; hired as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC); the 1982 U.S. Senate campaign; the challenges that Mitchell’s schedule and travel back to Maine presented; anecdote about Mitchell and a senator’s ID card; the tradition for the Senate staff to relax with a few beers in the office after their senator was safely out of the office for the weekend; the familial nature of the Senate staffs when members of the staff had long tenures; smoking in the office; Gayle Cory, how she took to “raising” Johnson, her expertise, and her role in holding the office together; the atmosphere of Mitchell’s office and his leadership style; Johnson’s role as chief of staff; criticism of Mitchell as a tax-and-spend Democrat and Mitchell’s index card response; answering the mail and how Mitchell enjoyed calling some of those who had written his office; Mitchell’s overall strategy of piecing many small elements together to accomplish his goals; and the development of the working relationship between Johnson and Mitchell.
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