During the Cobb GOP’s Fourth of July Celebration at Jim Miller Park on Wednesday, candidates were asked to take the stage and give stump speeches. When it was his turn, Lee announced he was running for re-election to the “Cobb County Chamber” before catching himself and saying actually he’s running for re-election as county chairman.
Later, Lee tried to brush the comment off as a simple mistake. Yet this is not the first time Lee has made that slip, said Larry Savage of east Cobb, one of three candidates challenging Lee for the office in the July 31 Republican Primary.
Lee made the same mistake while addressing a Cobb Republican Women’s luncheon, Savage said.
“The Bill Byrne story had come out that Tim wouldn’t run for re-election, and (Lee) said, ‘I want to make it perfectly clear that I am running for re-election for the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce,’” Savage said. “So that’s twice he’s made that same slip. You know, one time you can say it’s a Freudian slip, but two times Freud’s there in person.”
Lee explained to the Journal after he stepped off the stage why he said he was running for the Chamber.
“‘Chamber’ just came out rather than ‘commissioner,’” Lee said, noting he was simply speaking too fast.
Another candidate challenging Lee, former county chairman Bill Byrne, has long maintained that Lee is not an independent thinker but someone who is controlled by the Chamber and other agencies.
Byrne points to Lee’s cheerleading for the Chamber’s economic development initiative known as the Competitive EDGE as well as his championing of the TSPLOST.
“If you see him enough times making speeches, and you just close your eyes, he is just saying everything from the TSPLOST issue to the EDGE issue, you name it, you just hear him repeat exactly the Chamber byline,” Byrne said.
One prominent elected official tells the Journal that the reason the Chamber hasn’t filled the position of the non profit EDGE’s executive director is that it’s being held for Lee in the event he loses the election.
Lee denies being offered the executive director’s position, although Byrne said he’s heard the same allegation.
Byrne referenced a recent candidate forum held by the Cobb NAACP.
“We were all kind of waiting in the hall, the four of us, and I think it was Larry Savage who said to me, ‘Bill, if you don’t win this what are you going to do?’” Byrne recalled.
“I said, ‘well, I’ve already got my own business. I’ll just go back to my business and stay involved and do the best I can.’ And then he turned to Tim and said, ‘well Tim, if you don’t prevail are you going to be doing something with the Chamber?’ And without even thinking he responded, ‘well, I certainly hope so.’”
Byrne said the problem with doing what the Chamber wants is that it doesn’t have the county’s best interests at heart.
Neither Chamber CEO David Connell nor Chamber Chairman Tony Britton returned calls by press time.
“What is wrong with it is exactly what the TSPLOST is all about,” Byrne said. “The billion dollars being projected for Cobb County doesn’t benefit Cobb County. It benefits the city of Atlanta. All the chambers are tied into this uniformly, the Atlanta Regional Commission as well. If you look at Tad Leithead, he is ARC chairman and also a CID chairman. I mean, all of this is just expansion of what I call Agenda 21 which is constant growth philosophies and policies built around a center core.”
Catered by Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q, Wednesday’s GOP event was a festive affair, with an estimated 1,000 people turning out, Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy said.
Sheriff Neil Warren led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, while Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell sang “America the Beautiful.” The Cobb Sheriff’s Department Color Guard presented the colors, and former Cobb GOP chairmen Anthony-Scott Hobbs and Scott Johnson read the Declaration of Independence.
In addition to the dozens of stump speeches from candidates, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb) and Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart ginned up the base, urging President Obama’s ouster.
“Everything starts and ends in Cobb County,” Everhart said. “If you don’t win Cobb, you can’t win the state, so I’m depending on my fellow Cobb Countians to take us to the top in November and happy Fourth of July.”