With all votes except provisional ballots counted, Lee won 14,309 votes (52%) over Byrne’s 13,014 votes (48%) — though the earliest results showed Byrne leading Lee. Only 27,323 votes were cast in the race. There are 398,052 registered voters in Cobb, though not all of them voted Republican.
Lee attributed his win to “a very well-thought-out plan, great grassroots supporters, and a very intelligent electorate.”
“I’m exhausted, relieved, humbled and very appreciative that Cobb County trusts me to move forward for the next four years,” Lee said.
Byrne, who watched the returns at the Marietta Conference Center with about 100 supporters, said it was clear the voters had made their choice.
“I wish him well and hope he brings together the board and takes them in a positive direction as we work our way out of this recession,” Byrne said. “You’re always disappointed when you lose, but we knew going into this the odds were against us,” he said. “We were outspent 7 to 1 and sometimes you just can’t beat money.”
Byrne said his biggest frustration was low turnout.
“Win or lose, that’s just disgusting,” he said. “I hope it’s not an indication of what it’s going to be like in the fall.”
The former chairman insisted he will still be around.
“I’ll go back to my business and reenergize it, get that back moving again. And I’m going to come back very active in the Republican Party and work for candidates in the future,” he said. “We gave our best effort, gave the voters a choice and they’ve made the choice.”
Lee celebrated his victory in the ballroom of the Embassy Suites in Kennesaw with about 200 supporters. Family members in attendance were his father, Douglas Lee, a retired electrical engineer for Ford Motor Company and part-time minster; his wife, Annette Lee, facilities manager for MUST Ministries; his brother, Danny Lee of east Cobb, who works in the purchasing department for WellStar, and Danny’s wife, Mindy, an administrative assistant for the cancer center at WellStar.
Michael Paris, CEO of the Council for Quality Growth, and a Lee supporter, was also at the party.
“Tim has been one of the best chairmen we’ve ever had. Tim has provided leadership for this county. Kept our bond rating up and is always looking forward for the county, and that’s the kind of leadership we need in the county.”
Others at Lee’s party included WellStar CEO Reynold Jennings; Mary Lou Stephens of the Town Center CID; Cobb Chamber chief operating officer Demming Bass; county manager David Hankerson; Cobb DOT Director Faye DiMassimo; Development Authority of Cobb County executive director Nelson Geter; and Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, among others.
In the four-person July 31 Republican Primary, Lee was the top vote-getter, with 40 percent of the vote. Byrne won 27 percent.
Following the primary, last-place finisher Larry Savage endorsed Byrne, while Mike Boyce, who came in third, did not endorse anyone.
Lee was backed by the establishment, from Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce CEO Sam Williams and Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead to Cobb Chamber CEO David Connell. As such, he was able to bring much more money than Byrne.
Lee said Friday that he raised $56,455 since Aug. 1 and $441,320 for the entire campaign.
Lee hired two consulting firms to advise him in his race, Joel McElhannon with Athens-based South Public Affairs Consulting, who helped him in his first campaign, and Jeremy Brand with Brand LLC.
By contrast, Byrne said he raised between $6,000 and $7,000 for the runoff and about $75,000 all together.
Over the course of the campaign, Lee said electing Byrne would return the county to the 1980s. He blamed Byrne for a failed monorail proposal, a failed recycling plant, and an anti-gay resolution that outraged 1996 Olympic organizers.
He also ripped Byrne’s latest proposal that east Cobb residents consider forming their own City of East Cobb, dismissing it as another layer of government.