Cobb Party Chairman Joe Dendy is seeking a second-two year term and is being challenged by Oleg Ivutin, a native Russian and fervent Paul supporter.
The party’s mainliners are so concerned about their prospects today that airline pilot Darryl Wilson, who had been the third candidate in the race, dropped out on Wednesday rather than see the mainstreamers’ votes diluted and thereby enhance Ivutin’s chances.
THE RON PAUL MOVEMENT has found fertile ground in Cobb. At least five and possibly six of the 15 House District chairs in Cobb are said to be Paul supporters. Charles Gregory was the first Paul supporter to win elective office in Cobb with his surprise primary victory in 2012 over seemingly entrenched Republican state Rep. Judy Manning of Marietta. Gregory played up his conservatism during the campaign and made little or no mention in his campaign materials of his support for Paul. Many Mariettans told Around Town after learning of his victory that they had no idea that they’d voted for a Libertarian, in fact.
Gregory was quick to make a name for himself in this year’s legislative session, introducing a number of gun-rights bills, including one that would allow nearly anybody to carry a concealed weapon without a license. But he was one of only three Republicans on Thursday to vote against a bill that in most ways would increase the rights of gun owners. He voted as he did because, he said, it would allow a police officer who overhears someone making a threat to then add the speaker’s name to a database that a judge could later use to prohibit the person from obtaining a weapons license.
Gregory attended last summer’s Republican National Convention in Tampa not as a delegate but as the guest of a Ron Paul delegate — Oleg Ivutin. Gregory told an MDJ reporter that week that the Republican nominating process that produced Mitt Romney had made it clear to him that, “We live in an oligarchy and no longer a Republic” and that the convention had “brought my disillusionment to an entirely new level.” He also told the MDJ editorial board he was undecided whether that fall he would vote for Romney or stay home instead.
IVUTIN HAS POSTED a video on YouTube touting his candidacy, and in it he hammers on some of the same themes. (http://tinyurl.com/IvutinCandidacy).
“The Republican Party is at a crossroads,” he says. “Our party keeps electing ‘RINOs,’ (or ‘Republicans In Name Only’) or shoving them down people’s throats. Once they are elected they act like socialists. When you compare their voting record to the Democrats’ you don’t see a major difference. They say they are Republicans, but they vote like socialists. They live in a bubble, separated from the people. The only time we see them is when they are running for re-election. When Republican members vote for socialism, that is dangerous.”
And in a perhaps unwitting paraphrase of 1960s conservative icon Barry Goldwater, Ivutin asks, “Are we going to be a voice or an echo?”
IVUTIN’S STORY is inspirational in many ways and is an unusual one in Cobb politics, to say the least. He was raised in Siberia near the Chinese border. His maternal great-grandfather was executed in Stalin’s labor camps and his grandfather was declared “an enemy of the state.” His paternal grandfather also was sentenced to the labor camps.
He came to this country in 2001 with $1,500 hidden in his duffel bag and today owns a manufacturing business, a shipping business and a real estate business.
“I make things that ad value, rather than asking for things,” says Ivutin, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006. “I created my own job and other jobs.”
“Would you believe this would be possible, an immigrant coming and 10 years later running for party chairman?” he asks.
But as for the political system, “the road the current administration and the bipartisan Congress are on reminds me a lot of the country I left. … So it should be no surprise that I am not a fan of any totalitarian system, or any system that’s trying to become a totalitarian system.”
RETORTS DENDY, who is a South Carolina native with a degree from Clemson and an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, “The conspiracy theory of the Ron Paulers that the Republican establishment is corrupt and is made up of a bunch of socialists is not true. These folks believe that anyone that does not subscribe to their Libertarian ideologies is the enemy and must be ousted.”
The Paulers realize the Libertarian Party has very little in the way of an infrastructure, so they are trying to take over that of the Republicans, according to Dendy.
“And they’re doing it by any means necessary. Like the liberal Democrats, they truly believe their end justifies whatever means are necessary,” he said.
The Paul forces have pushed the party to vet and pick the candidates that run on its ticket, Dendy complains.
“They say this would do away with RINOs by allowing only ‘pure’ Republicans to run,” he said. “They actually mean ‘pure Libertarians.’ And isn’t that system of picking leaders the way they do it in Mr. Ivutin’s old country?”
A couple of Paul Libertarians were so disruptive at the GOP’s monthly meetings last summer that Dendy had to have them ejected.
“They were openly campaigning at our breakfasts against Romney, and were instead promoting the Libertarian candidate, (New Mexico Gov.) Gary Johnson,” Dendy said. “I would do the same thing to anyone who was promoting Obama, and I really don’t think Cobb Democratic Party Chair Melissa Pike would allow someone openly promoting a Republican or a Libertarian into their meetings.”
TODAY’S CONVENTION takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Roswell Street Baptist Church, across the street from the Cobb GOP headquarters building, and around 400 people are expected to be on hand as party members elect not just a chair and other executive officers but also delegates to the upcoming district and state conventions.
Running along with Dendy are Rose Wing for first vice chair, Justin Tomzcak for 2nd vice chair, Robert Potts for secretary, Helen Story as assistant secretary, Vince Clanton as treasurer and Gus Makris as assistant treasurer.
The competing slate features Ivutin for chairman, Daniel Galloway for first vice chair, Nathaniel Darnell for secretary, Richard Clark for assistant secretary and Chad Teague for assistant treasurer.
Keynote speaker for today’s event is longtime Georgia Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart of east Cobb.
KNOW ANY up-and-comers? If so, be sure to read the March issue of Cobb Life magazine in Sunday’s MDJ, which features “20 Rising Stars Under 40,” reports editor Mark Maguire. Incidentally, it also mentions that the Diamond Awards will take place March 16 at the Strand Theatre. Unfortunately, after press time the location was abruptly switched to the Marietta Hilton by organizer The Not Alone Foundation, which raises money to fight kidney disease. Cobb Life and the Strand apologize for any confusion, even though it’s not their fault. The event will feature such A-listers as “Dr. Drew,” Paula Abdul and Dionne Warwick. No word on why the switcheroo. … Look for a retrospective on the long career of retiring MDJ associate editor Bill Kinney in Sunday’s MDJ by Joe Kirby.
THE MADISON FORUM will host Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp at its Monday lunch at the Rib Ranch Restaurant on Canton Road in east Cobb. U.S. Senate candidate Paul Broun of Athens is also expected to be on hand, says Madison spokesman Michael Opitz.
The Cobb Taxpayers Association will hold a “Rock the E-SPLOST” rally at 1 p.m. Sunday on Marietta Square to oppose the March 19 tax referendum. Speakers will include former F&T Committee head Kim Euston, former Cobb Commission Chairman Bill Byrne, Georgia Tea Party board members and Cobb Taxpayers Association founder Lance Lamberton. For more, call David Staples at (678) 699-7062.
THE MARIETTA KIWANIS CLUB inducted new members last week and each took a turn telling the crowd about him or herself.
Among the inductees was Cobb’s new District Attorney Vic Reynolds. When it came his turn to speak, he brought down the house by drawling his name and title, followed by, “My advice to you is this: Stay as far away from me as you can!”