Cobb County often has been called “the center of the GOP universe” in Georgia. And with May 20 edging steadily closer, the epicenter of that universe for much of today will be concentrated first on a short stretch of Roswell Street and then, this evening at the Cobb Galleria Centre.
THE DAY WILL KICK OFF with a “Meet the Candidates” breakfast featuring U.S. Senate candidate Paul Broun of Athens and 11th District congressional hopefuls Bob Barr of Smyrna and Tricia Pridemore of Marietta. It is sponsored by the Cobb GOP and runs from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Cobb party headquarters at 799 Roswell St., just across the street from Roswell Street Baptist Church. Each of the three candidates will have 30 minutes to address the crowd.
THE DUST will barely be settled from the breakfast when the next high-profile event of the day starts. That will be the State School Superintendent Debate from 10 a.m. to noon right across the street at Roswell Street Baptist, 774 Roswell St. The debate’s sponsor is the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, which touts itself as Georgia’s “premiere grassroots organization for promoting economic and educational freedom of choice.” Moderating will be Joel Aaron Foster, the group’s communications director.
Confirmed attendees at the non-partisan event are Fitz Johnson of Cobb, Nancy Jester, Ashley Bell and Jurita Forehand Mays.
THE DEBATING CRANKS back up back across the street at the Cobb GOP HQ after a break for lunch when the Cobb Regional Republican women and Cobb GOP co-sponsor a debate for the candidates running to succeed Helen Goreham as District 1 Northwest Cobb Commissioner. All five candidates have agreed to attend: Realtor Angela Barner, former Commission Chairman Bill Byrne, insurance agent Glenn Melson, retired Marietta assistant fire chief Scott Tucker and former Acworth Alderman Bob Weatherford. Moderators will be radio talk show host Martha Zoller of Gainesville and WSB-TV newsman Ross Cavitt.
THOSE who haven’t had their thirst for political cut-and-parry quenched after all that will then be heading to the day’s big enchilada, the first full-fledged candidate debate for those running in the Republican Primary for the 11th District Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), who is running instead for U.S. Senate. It will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the combined Ballrooms C, D and F of the Galleria Centre.
All six candidates will be on the stage: former Congressman Bob Barr, former state House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey, former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville up in Bartow County, retired Army Col. Larry Mrozinski of Woodstock, former director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development Tricia Pridemore, and Allan Levene, who is running as the self-styled “official write-in candidate.”
The British-born Levene, a naturalized citizen, also is running for congressional seats in Michigan, Minnesota and Hawaii, though he says his top priority is Georgia’s primary because it comes first on the calendar. In case you’re wondering, the Constitution does not require candidates for Congress to reside in the districts they seek to represent. If it did, you’d see even more Gerrymandering than you do now.
ORGANIZERS are expecting a full house — around 1,000 people — for the event, 11th District GOP Chair Scott Johnson told Around Town. Most tickets have already been dispersed, but more than 100 were still available as of Friday afternoon. There is no cost to attend. The event will not be televised.
“We made 450 tickets available last week and they went in 48 hours. So Monday we decided to double the size of the event and added another 400 tickets, with a limit of just two per person instead of four, and most of them are gone, too,” Johnson said Thursday afternoon. “I would expect they’ll all be gone.”
Chances are very good that it will be the best-attended and highest-profile event of the campaign, Johnson said.
“I see it as crucial to them,” he said. “That’s why we’ve made it the focus of the party as well as the Young Republicans through our joint efforts. Obviously it’s going to be the biggest event these candidates have gone to. We’re the grand slam to clear the bases out.”
SERVING AS MODERATORS tonight will be Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint, Ph.D., and Republican National Committee member Randy Evans of Georgia. The event is being co-sponsored by the 11th District Republican Party and the Cobb, Atlanta, Buckhead and Cherokee Young Republicans.
“We’ve added a little twist to the debate and we’ve allowed people to Tweet in their questions ahead of time to the Cobb Young Republicans,” Johnson said. “And we’re going to choose questions from them to be answered at random by the candidates.”
The moderators will choose six of the best Tweeted questions, questions not directed at a specific candidate. And then a half-hour before the debate begins, each of the six candidates will draw one of the questions from a hat. The question drawn will be tagged for the candidate who drew it (who will get to see it), and then will be officially read to the candidate by the moderator during the debate, Johnson said.
You can submit a question by using @cd11debate and #cd11debate.
As for the other questions, each will be answered by all of the six candidates. And candidates will not be allowed to ask each other questions, Johnson said.
Candidates will have two minutes to answer each question. If one of them should mention another candidate by name, then, at the moderator’s discretion, the so-named candidate will have 30 seconds for rebuttal.
Opening remarks will be a minute and a half long each; closing statements two minutes each.
The candidates will be standing at podiums, not seated at a dais.
“We want to keep them on their toes,” Johnson joked.
He rebutted a reporter who mused that with six candidates on the stage, and with the usual preliminaries that typify Republican debates — i.e., The Pledge to the Flag, invocation, introduction of party officials, etc., there might not be much time left for actual debating.
“Well, we’ve cut the frills to a minimum. But there will be a prayer and The Pledge, I can assure you. A Republican event can’t do with any less,” he said.
MORE POLITICS: Tricia Pridemore this week earned the endorsement of the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, a national pro-life political action committee. … Bob Barr was endorsed on Friday by Georgia Right to Life. …
Pridemore and District 1 Commission candidate Bill Byrne were endorsed this week by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 13 in Cobb. …
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) opens his campaign headquarters at 10:30 a.m. today in the Marshalls Shopping Center on Austell Road.
PEOPLE: Congratulations to Michelle Sollicito of east Cobb, who set up the much-followed SnowedOutAtlanta Facebook page during Snowmaggedon, and who was flown to College Station, Texas this weekend to receive a Points of Light Award at a banquet honoring the 25th anniversary of the presidency of George H.W. Bush at the Bush Presidential Library.
Among those expected to attend are the former president and his wife, Barbara, as well as their sons former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“SWEE-NA-JOSA.” That’s the less-than-complimentary nickname Cobb school board member Scott Sweeney is being called behind his back at the district’s central office, insiders tell Around Town.
Sweeney critics describe him as a rubber-stamper for the Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa. Sweeney is being challenged in the May 20 Republican primary by Kevin Nicholas, director with PGi, a global video and audio technology company, who has three children in the school district.
Being seen as a “yes-man” for an unpopular superintendent can be politically risky, as Sweeney’s predecessor, Kathie Johnstone, found out the hard way. Voters tossed her out after a single term after she was seen as a tool of polarizing then-Superintendent Joe Redden.