Pulling ahead of a crowded field of five GOP candidates, Bill Byrne and Bob Weatherford have two months until they face off July 22.
“I don’t think anyone of the five of us expected any one candidate would run away from the group,” Byrne said. “It unfolded exactly as we had anticipated.”
Out of the $40,000 Byrne said his campaign raised for the primary, about $8,000 was set aside for a runoff.
“It seems like two months is a long time, but trust me, that goes off very quickly,” Byrne said about planning ahead.
Although Byrne pointed out he is not backed by a county association, like Weatherford’s endorsement from the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, the Byrne campaign surpassed its fund raising goal of $35,000 for the primary.
“And for practical reasons, it came from what we call the small people,” Byrne said about individual $50 and $100 contributions. “We had to work harder and raise smaller contributions, but we accomplished our goal.”
On Wednesday, Byrne said he was scheduling a fundraiser, making phone calls and updating Facebook.
“We started back up, my wife and I, at 6:30 this morning,” Byrne said. “I will take time off on July 23.”
Weatherford, who resigned his seat on the Acworth Board of Aldermen to run for the District 1 position, said he expected the District 1 race to have a runoff, but he didn’t “hold anything back” in the primary.
Weatherford said his campaign has raised about $40,000, with some funds left over for the runoff race.
“But we are going to be focused on meeting and greeting and raising some funds,” Weatherford said.
Before results came in Tuesday night, Weatherford said he was hoping to take a long motorcycle trip, as well as attend some speaking engagements out of town, but now he is scaling back those plans.
Weatherford said the key to winning will be getting voters to the polls. Having a runoff race for his vacated Alderman seat in Acworth should help bring out supporters, Weatherford said.
“But, it is going to come down to who can pull out their base, which is something Byrne is historically great at,” he said.
Although Byrne said runoff elections typically only see a one-digit turnout, he hopes this runoff season will bring a larger number because Georgians are more accustomed to voting in July.
Dividing up the electorate
Weatherford has already reached out to the unsuccessful District 1 candidates to ask for their support.
“Everybody was in the race with the same goal: to serve Cobb,” Weatherford said. “It comes down to who can perform best in their stead.”
Byrne said there is a reason supporters of Angela Barner, Glenn Melson and Scott Tucker did not vote for Weatherford.
Because those three candidates are more closely aligned to his campaign, Byrne said, “their supporters have a whole lot more in common with me than (Weatherford.)”
Still, Byrne said he is not strongly pursuing endorsements.
“They are really cosmetic in nature,” Byrne said.
Scott Tucker, a retired fire marshal and assistant fire chief who lives in Kennesaw, earned 2,896 votes or 19 percent.
Tucker said he will most likely be endorsing one of the runoff candidates, especially after 50 or 60 of his supporters already asked for his guidance by Wednesday afternoon.
“I want to talk to them one-on-one and find out what they are personally passionate about,” Tucker said.
Chuck Clay, a former state senator and former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said the two remaining candidates should focus on their base.
“Every runoff is about turning out your votes,” he said. “You have two veteran politicians in this runoff.”
Although the primary season was short, Clay said the candidates will have a longer than normal runoff campaign.
“There is ample time for all of those in runoffs to recalibrate their campaigns, if they need it,” Clay said about going after swing voters.
Clay said Byrne will need to show he is a “kinder and gentler” man who is a “team player.”
Weatherford said he has already been campaigning on his ability to work collaboratively with others.
Clay also expects Weatherford to promote his work in Acworth, which Clay said is a model for economic development in hard times.
“Acworth has done very well and their leadership deserves a lot of credit for it,” Clay said.
Byrne said the election will now be focused on just two candidates.
“There is nothing in common between us,” Byrne said. “The two most different candidates have prevailed.”
For instance, Byrne is staunchly against a proposal to use special purpose local option sales tax dollars to help pay for a bus-rapid transit system connecting Kennesaw State University with Midtown Atlanta.
In a poll conducted by the Marietta Daily Journal, Weatherford said he was undecided and that voters should make the decision.