Around Town: Primary runoffs now down to the wire
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
July 19, 2014 04:00 AM | 4141 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PRIMARY SEASON 2014 heads into its final weekend this morning, with “ground zero” squarely on northwest Cobb and Marietta. That’s where the two hardest-fought local races of the season — those for 11th District U.S. Congressman and District 1 Cobb Commissioner — will be decided. And voters in those precincts might also play an outsized role in deciding who the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate will be.

Many political observers considered former Congressman Bob Barr of Smyrna the heavy favorite at the outset of the 11th District race, thanks to his years in Washington and high name recognition. But former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk of Cartersville — who was all but completely unknown to Cobb voters nine months ago — came out of nowhere to become the leading vote-getter in the May 20 primary, even narrowly besting Barr in Cobb. Since then, he has shaken off allegations of “resume embellishment” concerning his Air Force service, has outraised Barr in the money chase and is seen by many as poised to win Tuesday’s GOP runoff. There is no Democrat seeking the seat vacated by Rep. Phil Gingrey.

Barr, long a polarizing figure who left the party to become a Libertarian before rejoining the fold, seems to have had difficulty reaching beyond his core supporters. And Loudermilk has made hay out of the fact Barr wrote a letter of recommendation six years ago for now-toxic Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General.

Years ago, people would have snickered at the idea of trying to run to the right of Barr, who was viewed as one of the most hard-right figures on Capitol Hill in the Clinton era. But unabashed tea partier Loudermilk has found happy hunting grounds there.

Barr picked up the endorsements of former primary opponents Ed Lindsey of Buckhead and Larry Mrozinski of Cherokee, but the biggest prize —– former primary opponent Tricia Pridemore of Marietta — eluded him. She, as of this writing, has endorsed neither candidate, although her former campaign manager, Marietta’s Kim Gresh, endorsed Barr and hosted a fundraiser for him late this week.

Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin surprised some by endorsing his former legislative colleague, Loudermilk, over fellow Cobb resident Barr. Loudermilk also got a huge boost early on when he was endorsed by state senator and west Cobb political kingmaker Lindsey Tippins, then got another this week when he was endorsed by Sarah Palin.

Perhaps the key question going into Tuesday might be this one: Where will Pridemore’s former supporters go? Will they cast a reluctant vote for hometown candidate Barr? Will they turn to comparative stranger Loudermilk? Or will they stay on the sidelines and vote for neither one?

Loudermilk is expected to win the Bartow County portion of the district by a heavy majority and very possibly the Cherokee portion by a similar margin. Barr is expected to win the sliver of Fulton that’s in the district, but will have to outdraw Loudermilk — by a lot — in Cobb in order to win.

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NORTHWEST COBB and Marietta also are the runoff battleground for the Cobb Commission seat being vacated by Helen Goreham after three terms. Former Commission Chairman Bill Byrne and former Acworth Alderman Bob Weatherford have fought scorched-earth campaigns. Byrne, like Barr a polarizing figure in the past, has hitched his horse this time to the public’s obvious distaste for the $494 million bus rapid transit line on Cobb Parkway that Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee until this week has been pushing to see funded by this November’s SPLOST referendum. Lee now has pulled back from the BRT, but is it far enough to quell the public’s suspicions and fears?

Weatherford has been non-committal on the BRT. Many election-watchers feel he would have had the race wrapped up weeks ago had he come out squarely against it.

Both candidates are ex-Marines, but the similarities stop there. Byrne is confrontational, Weatherford a peacemaker.

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PRIMARIES always have low turnouts, and primary runoff turnouts typically are even lower. However, that might not be the case in Marietta and west Cobb on Tuesday, thanks to the feverish nature of the two campaigns discussed above. The question then becomes who does that extra turnout help the most: U.S. Senate hopeful Jack Kingston of Savannah or David Perdue of Macon?

Overall, the 11th Congressional District had the second-highest turnout May 20 of all the state’s 14 congressional districts, trailing only the 9th (based in Gainesville). In other words, the 11th is vote rich, but for who?

Perdue led Kingston in every state House district in Cobb on May 20, and the only one in which Kingston broke the 20 percent mark in that crowded field was HD 53 (Sheila Jones) along Atlanta Road in south Cobb. Perdue also won the Cobb portion of the district, 28.9 percent to 12.2 percent, and won the district overall (30.9 to 13.2).

But Kingston has been a constant presence in Cobb since then, and clearly has local momentum going into Tuesday. Will the unusually large (for a primary runoff) tide of voters in the 11th, and especially in the northwest Cobb portion of the 11th, play a key role for him?

We’ll know on Tuesday.

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IT WAS a “Who’s Who” of municipal-level local officials at Friday’s lunchtime meet-and-greet for Commission candidate Weatherford at the Marietta Museum of History.

The event was hosted by Helen Goreham and was headlined by all six of the county’s serving mayors: Acworth’s Tommy Allegood, Kennesaw’s Mark Mathews, Marietta’s Tumlin, Smyrna’s Max Bacon, Austell’s Joe Jerkins and Patricia Vaughn of Powder Springs.

Others on hand included Acworth Aldermen Butch Price, Gene Pugliese and Tim Richardson; Kennesaw Council members Dr. Chris Eaton-Welsh, Tim Killingsworth, Debra Williams and Jim Sebastian; and Marietta Councilmen Philip Goldstein and Anthony Coleman. Also there were former Cobb Commission Chair Earl Smith, former Mayor Bill Dunaway, retired Cobb Police Chief George Hatfield and retired Sheriff Bill Hutson.

Those with long memories remember the always combative Byrne made few friends among city leaders during his long tenure as commission chairman, and the host list for Friday’s event was reflective of that. The message was loud and clear Friday about who local officials prefer to work with going forward. …

Meanwhile, there will be a “Brunch and Brawl” viewing party at 10:30 a.m. at Shillings on Sunday to watch the 11 a.m. airing of the Byrne vs. Weatherford Atlanta Press Club debate taped last week.

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TODAY: Senate candidate Perdue will swing through Marietta today during his “statewide bus tour” and is scheduled to be at the Republican Party Office at 799 Roswell St. at 3 p.m. …

And Barr supporters will rally from 9 to 10 this morning at 2480 Windy Hill Road to hear his remarks about the border crisis, the Malaysian air crash, Gaza and more.

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THE RADISSON HOTEL on the 120 Loop in Marietta will hold grand opening ceremonies from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday. The event will be themed as “A Salute to Dobbins” and will feature the 94th Airlift Wing Base Honor Guard.

Of special interest will be the dedication of one of the hotel’s event spaces as “The Jay Whorton Room,” named after longtime MDJ associate publisher and ad salesman extraordinaire Whorton, who passed away this winter.

Meanwhile, the past week saw the birth of the Clinton Wright Walters, son of Clint and Laurie Walters and great-grandson of Jay and Laura Whorton.

“Jay would be all over town spreading the news! ‘Happy Day!’ dear friends,” emailed Whorton daughter-in-law Vicki Whorton to Around Town.



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