Campaign donations in the race for District 2 county commissioner, which pits incumbent Bob Ott against attorney Jonathan Page, show an apparent split in the business and development community over the two candidates.
Page has sought to cast Ott as an obstructionist, while Ott has said voters don’t want a candidate who will “vote yes to get along.”
Page and Ott are both running as Republicans, meaning the outcome will likely be determined at the May 24 primary. Independent and third-party candidates, however, have until June to declare.
No Democrats have signed up to run for the seat, which represents southeast Cobb, including the Cumberland area.
The latest campaign finance disclosure reports show strong support for Ott among property
managers and some members of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, a champion of the deal to bring the Atlanta Braves to Cobb.
From Jan. 31 to March 31, Ott raised $28,650 and spent $12,297.32, leaving him about $56,326 in cash on hand, including money from previous fundraising cycles. Page raised $48,975 and spent $13,675 over the same period, leaving him with about $35,299 cash on hand. Page’s supporters include several prominent business figures.
Ott’s contributors during this reporting cycle include Governors Ridge Office Park ($2,500); Powers Ridge Office Park ($2,500); Anlabran Enterprises, LLC, ($2,500); Thrasher Management ($2,500); Traton Homes, LLC ($2,000); J. Childress of Childress Klein Properties ($1,000); Cumberland CID board member Connie Engel ($500); James Brock of Deloitte ($2,600); Randall Holmes, CEO of Seven Oaks Company ($250); and Bob Voyles, a board member on the Cumberland CID and Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority ($250).
Contributors also include Cobb GOP leader Donna Rowe, a Vietnam War veteran of the Army Nurse Corps ($500); and activist Tom Cheek, who filed an unsuccessful ethics complaint against Chairman Tim Lee ($200).
Rowe said she has never seen Page at any Republican Party or community events, and had no idea who he was before he declared his candidacy.
“Bob Ott represents his constituents, he does what his constituents want; so if Bob Ott is an obstructionist, I guess all of us in east Cobb are obstructing something that’s not correct,” Rowe said. “Who is this young man (Page) and why is he running? Did someone select him to run and he acquiesced?”
Page responded to the suggestion that someone, rumored in some corners to be James Rhoden Jr., chairman of Futren Corporation, a member of Cobb Travel & Tourism and a long-time leader in the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, was behind his decision to run against Ott.
“That is 100 percent false,” Page said, adding that he knew Rhoden from the East Cobb Rotary Club, where they are both members.
“I sought him out,” Page said. “He believed in the message, he agreed with the message, he agreed with the type of leadership style I was offering.”
Page’s contributors include several figures who have either contributed directly or through a business entity to Chairman Lee’s campaign, including Rhoden, who contributed $2,600 to Page during this reporting cycle. Other contributors include James Rhoden III ($1,250); former Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman Ben Mathis, an attorney who defended Lee in the ethics case filed by Cheek ($2,600); Mary Ann Ackourey, an attorney with Mathis’ firm, Freeman Mathis & Gary, which also contributed to Lee’s campaign ($2,600); and former Chamber Chairman Rob Garcia, president of Bank of North Georgia, whose wife, Teena Garcia, contributed to Lee’s campaign ($1,000); Fitz Johnson, former owner of the Atlanta Beat soccer club ($1,250); retired Bryant Elementary principal Mary K. Widener; Sandra Sweeney, wife of Cobb school board member Scott Sweeney ($250); and Michael Paris, CEO of the Council for Quality Growth ($500).
Page attributed his fundraising successes to personal relationships with his supporters.
“I have a lot of supporters who know me personally … they know what kind of leader I would be,” he said.
Page said he believed in “Saying ‘yes’ when ‘yes’ advances a priority … and taking accountability for your ‘nos.’” He characterized his opponent, Ott, as “ineffective” and uncooperative.
As for the apparent shared base of support between himself and Chairman Lee, Page said he was “not aware of any policy perspective that Lee and I share.”
Rhoden, for his part, said he was “flattered by the suggestion that (he was) a mastermind behind anything,” saying he was “one of many” who urged Page to run.
Rhoden said he was “thoroughly disappointed” with Ott, whom he called a source of “strife and aggravation” on the Board of Commissioners who voted inconsistently.
By way of example, Rhoden pointed to Ott’s vote against Tritt Walk, a 481-unit residential senior living development proposed by developer Isakson Living. Rhoden pointed out that Ott had voted in favor of another senior living development in a residential area, Sterling Estates, which was approved with 90 units and six cottage duplexes in 2012.
Ott said the two cases were completely different, emphasizing the difference in density between 481 units and 90.
“Every zoning case has to be looked at on its own merits,” Ott said. He went on to say that campaign donations from property managers, businesses and members of the Cumberland CID contradicts the criticism that he is not a team player.
“What it shows is I meet (with the business community) and listen to their concerns and we work together to make the community better,” Ott said. “Those are the very people that my opponent is accusing me of not working with.”
Separately, District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid is running for re-election unopposed.