Challenger Hill winning money race, but can he win on Nov. 6?
by Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby
Around Town Columnists
October 09, 2012 12:00 AM | 4936 views | 7 7 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ANY DOUBTS as to the importance of the Doug Stoner-Hunter Hill race for the District 6 state Senate seat representing Smyrna/Buckhead/Sandy Springs fell by the wayside with the release on Monday of the campaign finance disclosure forms of the two men. As first noted in Around Town back in September 2011, should that seat fall into Republican hands it would give that party a key two-thirds “supermajority” vote in the Senate, allowing it to put constitutional amendments before voters without interference from the opposing party. Most of the other Senate seats in this year’s elections have already been decided and the rest of those on November’s ballot are not considered to be “competitive.”

Those disclosure forms, which were due on Friday, show that well more than a half-million dollars has been poured into the race. They also show that Hill, the challenger, has achieved the unusual political distinction of raising more money than the incumbent, Stoner. Hill had raised a whopping $411,012 through Sept. 30 and still had $122,140 cash on hand as of Friday. Stoner had raised a more-than-respectable $228,998 by that date and had $100,825 on hand. Incumbents usually have a huge advantage in fundraising, especially those like Stoner, who are personally popular and haven’t stepped in any minefields.

It’s not a stretch to assume that the total raised by the two will top $750,000 by the time Election Day rolls around.

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NOTABLE DONORS to Hill, or who have Cobb connections, include Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle ($2,500), East Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott (via his political action committee “Bob4Cobb” $1,000), lawyer Lance Cooper of west Cobb ($1,000), Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp ($500), plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Musarra II ($500), former Atlanta Falcons Coach Dan Reeves ($500), former Cobb EMC board member Johnny Gresham ($250), and Cobb EMC lawyer Dwight Davis of King & Spalding ($250).

Notable donors to Stoner include state Sen. Jason Carter (grandson of former President Jimmy Carter) (a $2,500 donation and a $2,000 donation), Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed ($2,500), Bob Matthews of Mathews Contracting Co. in Marietta (a $2,500 donation and a $1,000 donation), the Barnes Law Group (headed by former Gov. Roy Barnes) of Marietta ($2,000), Post Properties CEO David Stockert ($1,000), the Coca-Cola Company Georgia ($1,000) Vulcan Materials Company (operator of the quarry and asphalt plant in Kennesaw) ($1,000), and James Budzinski, WellStar VP and CFO ($250). Kevin Greiner, president and CEO of Gas South (and a TSPLOST supporter), gave $250. Stoner also got a $250 contribution from C&S Bank Senior VP Tony Britton, who chairs the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and was another prominent TSPLOST supporter.

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AMONG STONER’S OTHER DONORS were five of the nine Cobb business insiders who jointly endorsed Stoner as “Republicans for Doug Stoner” late last month. The nine were all prominent supporters of this summer’s failed TSPLOST referendum, as was Stoner. Hill took no position on the referendum.

The letter was signed by Rob Garcia, president of the Bank of North Georgia, and Bob Prillaman, retired VP of Caraustar Industries of Austell, and listed seven other names on the letterhead: Futren Corp. head Jim Rhoden, Atlanta Regional Commission head Tad Leithead, apartment builder Barry Teague, Bob Voyles of Seven Oaks Co., Michael Paris of the Council for Quality Growth, lawyer Ben Mathis and Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce president Sam Williams.

All but Leithead, Teague, Voyles and Williams donated to Stoner’s campaign, according to the latest report. Garcia, Mathis (via his law firm, Freeman Mathis & Gary), Prillaman and Rhoden gave $250 each and Paris gave $200.

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AMONG THOSE SURPRISED by the “Republicans for Stoner” letter was Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy.

“I cannot understand why these gentlemen, who call themselves ‘Republicans,’ cannot support a true conservative Republican, but instead use the TSPLOST as a litmus test to arrive at their decision on whom to support,” he told Around Town. “Hunter Hill is truly a remarkable man who has served his country valiantly in combat and who will serve the citizens of Cobb and Fulton counties extremely well. The signers of this letter, some of whom I have never even seen at a Republican event, should be cautious of calling themselves Republican while endorsing the opponent of the candidate who exemplifies the principles of Republican conservatism. As a matter of fact, why are some of the signers are saying anything about this race when they don’t even live in that Senate district?”

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STONER FACES a steep uphill battle to win, regardless of who has endorsed him. His newly redrawn district (thanks to reapportionment) is so Republican that even the hypothetical combined endorsements of Mitt Romney, Nathan Deal and Ronald Reagan might not be enough to persuade voters there to back a Democrat.

Indeed, the new 6th is far different geographically than it was in Stoner’s earlier races. For starters, it now has portions of Cobb and Fulton, rather than just the Smyrna area. It stretches from Delk Road southeast to Vinings, includes the Galleria area, crosses the Chattahoochee, sweeps up much of Buckhead and curves back northward through Sandy Springs to take in the Georgia 400 corridor to the edge of Dunwoody.

It differs even more demographically. Its population is split almost evenly between the two counties (49,137 in Cobb and 49,047 in Fulton). The old pre-reapportionment 6th was 39 percent black in voter registration, and African-Americans tend to vote heavily Democratic. The new 6th is only 21 percent black in registration — 34 percent in the Cobb section and only 8 percent in the Fulton section.

Precincts in what is now the 6th gave an average of 57 percent support to Republican statewide candidates in 2010, with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb) snaring 63 percent support from the district.

Stoner’s best bet might be to try to portray Hill as too conservative for the district on social issues like abortion. For example, the “Personhood” straw-poll amendment that was on the July 31 GOP primary ballot passed statewide, but lost in the new 6th. And Rick Santorum, who was perceived as the most conservative of the GOP candidates on the March presidential primary ballot, won only 10 percent of the votes in the district, way behind the 51 percent Romney got there. Moreover, it was one of just seven state Senate districts under the new map that Romney won that day, and the only one where he got a majority of the primary vote.

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WHEN RETIRING Judge Dorothy Robinson’s portrait was unveiled at the courthouse on Thursday, she joined Senior Judge Watson White as two of only seven jurists who’ve practiced in Cobb through the years to receive such an honor. The others are Harold Hawkins (1931-48 on the Cobb bench and 1948-60 on the Georgia Supreme Court), James Manning (1953-65), Albert Henderson (1960-69 Cobb, 1968-86 on the federal bench), Luther C. Hames Jr. (1968-80), James L. Bullard (1973-85) and Bob Flournoy Jr. (1987-2001). All but White and Robinson are now deceased.

Robinson will be remembered not only for her legal skills but her athletic ones as well. She has completed 13 Peachtree Road Races, plays tennis on the ALTA and USTA Business Women’s teams and completed 13 Bicycle Rides Across Georgia. Marietta attorney Dennis O’Brien mentioned her athleticism during his speech Thursday at the portrait unveiling.

“I rode in a few of them with her and it was always pleasant until we got to a hill or to a mountain and she’d just look back at me and say, ‘Dennis, I’ll just meet you at the top,’ and she’d just drop me like a bad habit,” he said.

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GOV. DEAL’S OFFICE says interviews will be today for the four finalists short-listed to succeed Superior Court Judge George Kreeger, who retired Sept. 28. There’s no timeline for an announcement, we’re told.

The finalists recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission are State Court Judges Maria B. Golick and Robert Leonard, Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman and Mark S. VanderBroek, a partner at Troutman Sanders.

JUST IN: State Attorney General Sam Olens will deliver the keynote address at Thursday’s launch of Cobb2020 Partnership’s Health Improvement Initiative, The Weight is Over ... A Healthier Cobb Starts Now! at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre.

Gov. Deal, the originally scheduled speaker, has been called to attend “a national event” the same evening, according to organizers. (Could that be the Vice Presidential Debate?) He still plans to deliver a video message to the Cobb group that night.
Comments
(7)
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A team
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October 24, 2012
I used to work at Stoners Dairy Queen as a teenager. Always broke state laws for minors working hours. He's as bad as Obama.
Pat H
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October 10, 2012
Greiner is CEO of Gas South, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cobb EMC.

As a supporter of T-SPLOST and now Stoner, he surely doesn't represent the values of EMC owners/rate payers.

If Gas South fails, Cobb EMC gets stuck with paying for its overpaid CEO and consultants like Rayder.
Watcher...
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October 09, 2012
Stoner’s best bet might be to try to portray Hill as too conservative for the district on social issues like abortion.
TCW(TheCobbWay)
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October 09, 2012
It seems pretty obvious that Stoner has the support of the psuedo Republicans in Cobb who were rabid, vitriolic advocates of the $7 Billion TSPLOST rip off of the Metro Area voters.

It's no coincidence that they are the ones who would have personally benefited if the TSPLOST had passed.

Just the kind of business "leadership" we need.

Talk about crony capitalism!!

To paraphrase a line from the Music Man: We have seen a perfect example of it right here in River City folks!!!
well, golly gee
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October 09, 2012
Well, what do you know? Jimmy Carter! and Kasim Reed donating to Stoner! What about that! Now that is real news, democrats donating to democrats. Thanks for the info, if nothing else, those two names would seal my vote for Hill!! (Wouldn't worry too much about him winning, if I were you).
Watcher...
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October 09, 2012
I keep looking for Tim Lee's name to appear on Stoner's contribution list.
SG68
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October 09, 2012
@ Watcher

That won't happen unless the Chamber gives him permission.
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