Runoff finalists Bob Barr of Smyrna and Barry Loudermilk of Cartersville will square off at 6:30 in the Bailey Performance Center at Kennesaw State University for a 90-minute debate sponsored by the 11th District Republican Party. It’s the only such debate currently scheduled during the runoff period, which will culminate with another round of balloting July 22.
Will tonight’s face-off be a placid one, like those earlier in the race? Or, with the election just six weeks away and the start of advance voting just two weeks away, will the gloves come off and stay off?
Former state Sen. Loudermilk came in first during the May 20 Primary, besting five other hopefuls and winning three (Cobb — by 27 votes — plus Cherokee and Bartow) of the four counties in the district, losing only in Fulton.
With that in mind Barr — a seasoned federal prosecutor who many felt dominated the earlier debates — might feel he has nothing to lose by unleashing some of the same level of criticism at Loudermilk he directed at President Barack Obama in the earlier meetings.
Loudermilk and former Congressman Barr are vying to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta). There is no Democrat running for the seat in the heavily Republican district.
Tonight’s event is free and open to the public, said 11th District GOP Chairman Scott Johnson. It is not expected to be broadcast in its entirety on any local stations. The Bailey Center seats around 550 people.
Asking the questions will be Republican Party National Committeeman Randy Evans of Georgia and Around Town columnist Joe Kirby.
BARR’S CAMPAIGN got a welcome surge of good news late this week with the announcement by Kim Gresh that she is endorsing Barr. Gresh served as campaign chair for 11th District congressional hopeful Tricia Pridemore, who narrowly missed the runoff.
“As a small business owner and a taxpayer, I know Cobb County and our district need Bob Barr,” said Gresh, who was chosen as the 2012 Cobb County Citizen of the Year by the MDJ and is widely known for her civic activism. “Bob has the skills, proven experience and the seniority to get to work immediately to reduce the burden on local job creators so they can create more jobs for taxpayers here in our community.”
“The single largest employer in our district is Lockheed — and only Bob Barr has a proven track record of not only protecting but expanding Lockheed jobs,” she added. “More than this, there are hundreds, if not thousands of businesses that exist only because the presence of Lockheed and Dobbins. Marietta and Cobb County need Bob Barr protecting our Lockheed jobs.”
FORMER Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway and veteran Councilman Philip Goldstein rarely agreed on much during Dunaway’s tenure, but they both now agree Barr is the best candidate for the 11th. Dunaway endorsed Barr early this month and Goldstein did so this week, saying, “The seniority Bob will retain is extremely valuable to Marietta and Cobb County. When a local government or small business runs into federal bureaucrats who want to red-tape us to death, Marietta knows, because he has proven it to us, that he will get to work for Marietta and achieve results.”
Current Mayor Steve Tumlin endorsed Loudermilk earlier this month.
DEMOCRATIC gubernatorial hopeful Jason Carter will make his first post-primary venture in Cobb next week at a 7 to 9 p.m. fundraiser/reception at the Indian Hills Country Club clubhouse Tuesday .
A $500-A-COUPLE fundraiser for U.S Senate candidate Jack Kingston is slated for 6 to 8 p.m. June 29 at the home of Gary and Melissa Bottoms in Marietta. Hosts include Kim Gresh, Judy and Aymar Manning, Ben Mathis, Nicole and Jeff Mills, Connie Engel and Pete Watson, Amy and John Hearn, Carol and Jim Ney, Bob Prillaman and Barry Teague.
Kingston (R-Savannah) was endorsed this week by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, once of east Cobb. Kingston faces David Perdue in the July 22 Senate GOP runoff. Kingston also was endorsed this week by the NRA’s Political Victory Fund.
CONGRATULATIONS to attorney Hylton Dupree of Marietta, who was the recipient of this year’s Professionalism Award from the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia.
U.S. REP. Tom Price (R-east Cobb) will appear on Chris Wallace’s Fox News show on Sunday discussing the future of the Republican Party.
LOOK FOR THE BATTLE over immigration to bubble back up on the home front next year in Cobb if Bill Byrne is elected District 1 Northwest Cobb Commissioner. That’s because Byrne told Around Town this week he will push the commission to require all contractors, subcontractors and service providers for the county be IMAGE-certified, meaning they do not employ any immigrants in the country illegally.
A push by east Cobb Commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell last year to require Cobb be IMAGE-certified quickly became highly controversial, with Chairman Tim Lee and south Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid strongly opposed. Incumbent Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham initially seemed to favor it, but ultimately voted against it.
But if Byrne wins the upcoming July 22 GOP Primary runoff and then is elected in November, he would represent the swing vote in favor of the IMAGE program.
THE OTHER CANDIDATE in the GOP District 1 Primary, former Acworth Councilman Bob Weatherford, told Around Town he is not likely to support a change in the county’s position.
“That’s the way I’m leaning. I still need to get a few more details,” he said.
Weatherford said he supports Lee’s decision to have the county government use IMAGE to certify its own workforce as legal.
“But I’m not certain I would require those doing business with the county to do it,” he said. “It seems to be an undue burden. It’s a long, lengthy process. They already have to use E-Verify.”
The E-Verify program checks the immigration status of job applicants, and according to critics, is easily fooled by fake IDs. The IMAGE program offers federal certification of the status of all employees, no matter when they were hired.
Unlike Weatherford, Byrne has no qualms about approving the program.
“I’m a huge proponent of IMAGE and E-Verify,” he told Around Town. “We’re IMAGE-certified as a state and we should be IMAGE-certified in Cobb County, even more so now than a year ago. The development of the Braves’ new stadium is going to create significant numbers of construction jobs, and we need to be very sure the contractors that are hired by the Braves or by Cobb are indeed IMAGE-certified and legal residents.”
For some reason, IMAGE never came up in any of this year’s candidate debates, even though last year’s battle over the program was bruising for most of those involved and the program seemed to have the support of much of the public.
But although they differ on the IMAGE program, Byrne and Weatherford are in accord on the other big local immigration-related issue of recent years, Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren’s use of the federal 287(g) program that allows jailers to check the immigration status of those brought to the jail on other charges. Weatherford says he’s “certainly” for it, and Byrne said he’s “absolutely” in favor of it.