During a debate at the Atlanta Press Club over the weekend, Smith asked Olens about supporting presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.
Smith referenced a Feb. 25, 1992, article in the MDJ by Joe Kirby titled "Clinton garners support from county Democrats."
The article reports how then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was endorsed that week in his presidential bid by most high-ranking Cobb Democrats. The article lists members of the Cobb Chapter of the Clinton for President Committee, describing Olens as a member, as well as the treasurer of the Cobb Democratic Party.
Yet Olens told the Journal he was not on any committee to help elect Clinton, nor did he contribute to his campaign.
"As a young attorney, I considered myself an independent and sometimes voted Democrat. As I matured, I realized the Republican Party much better represented my values and beliefs," Olens said.
Olens said his Republican credentials are clear, having been an elected Republican for 12 years with a proven conservative record, endorsed by more than 150 elected Republicans statewide.
"We need to keep in mind that even Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat," Olens said. "Our first Republican governor of Georgia was once a Democrat. And two of the leading Republican candidates for governor were once Democrats. I am proud of my record as an elected official and the voters would be better served if we would remain focused on the issues facing Georgia."
Republican candidate for governor Nathan Deal was first elected to the U.S. House in 1992 as a Democrat then changed to the GOP Party in 1995. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes, of Marietta, headed the campus Republicans at the University of Georgia during the late 1960s. Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson was head of the campus Democrats there during the same period.
Other notables who switched parties include Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson, who served two terms as a Republican until he was defeated in 2004 by Annette Kesting. He switched to Democrat and defeated Kesting in 2008. Longtime Republican Congressman Bob Barr, of Smyrna, switched to the Libertarian Party and ran for president after losing a re-election battle following redistricting. Also, former Cobb Sheriff Bill Hutson was first a Democrat.
Attorney Chuck Clay, the former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said he switched to the Republican Party in 1979.
"As you can imagine, there were many switchers to the Republican Party here as it really began to take off starting around 1976, when Tom Charron beat Buddy Darden for Cobb DA. Some is ideological and some is pragmatic," Clay said.