The race to represent east Cobb on the county commission has seen both the incumbent and his primary challenger accuse the other of being out of touch and unfit for the position.
Commissioner Bob Ott, who has represented District 2 since 2008, and his opponent, attorney Jonathan Page, are each vying for the Republican nomination for the post, which will be decided during the May 24 primary. No Democrat has qualified for the race, though third party and independent candidates can qualify in June.
The tone of the race was on display Tuesday at a candidate forum hosted by the East Cobb Civic Association, which saw about 50 people show up to hear from the candidates.
The issues on the table were familiar to those who have been following county politics in recent years: transparency, development, green space, public safety, taxes, transportation and the SunTrust Park stadium.
Ott touted his years of experience on the board and in the community while Page spoke of his deep Cobb roots, his leadership style and his credentials as an attorney and small business owner.
Throughout the campaign, Page has sought to portray Ott as an obstructionist who says no without offering alternatives. Ott has defended his record as a series of principled stances, a small fraction of which, he says, put him in opposition to the rest of the board.
“My opponent will say that I want to go along to get along — that is absolutely false,” Page said. “What I want to do is get the other commissioners to go along on initiatives and priorities … that do good for our county.”
Ott held himself up in contrast to Page as someone who was not afraid to ask questions and “ruffle feathers” in order to get to make the best decision.
“(Page) tries to say that experience and knowledge are bad,” Ott said. “I’ve pressed for outside-the-box traffic alternatives, which you find out about not by being in Cobb County all of your life, but by traveling around the world and seeing how other people do it.”
Ott also took several swipes at Chairman Tim Lee, who is running for re-election against challengers Mike Boyce and Larry Savage, an indication that the battle lines may extend beyond District 2.
Ott went after Lee for the water fund transfers to the general fund, for his record on public safety, and for his handling of the budget.
On the Braves stadium, Ott said that while he believed it should have been put to a referendum, there was already a majority of commissioners in favor of the deal. Instead of trying to bring it to the public for a vote, Ott said, he worked to close loopholes in the memorandum of understanding between the county and the team.
“The incumbent wants to be on all sides of the issue,” both for and against, Page said of Ott’s stance on the stadium deal.
Page said that when it came to “big ticket” expenses with long-term obligations, “(the public) should have a vote on whether you want to have a continuing obligation as a taxpayer to pay for a project.”
At another point, however, Page was caught taking a stand in favor of privatizing ambulance service in the county, before Ott pointed out that ambulance service is already privatized in Cobb.
Cobb residents in attendance said the forum was informative, although several characterized the questions as predictable.
“I came in with a very open mind, because I didn’t know anything about either candidate,” said Guy Kriske of east Cobb. “My priorities would be the water transfer and transparency of taxation, and then beyond that would be transportation.”
Patti Rice of east Cobb said she wanted to know whether either candidate supported Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“I just would like to know if they’re holding a party line or not,” Rice said.
Locally, Rice said that senior housing was a very important issue to voters.
“It’s huge because of the baby boomers and all of us seeing our parents (age),” Rice said.
“I think the Braves was a big one,” added Fran Mitchell, also of east Cobb.
“We didn’t get anything on the bridge tonight,” she said, referring to a proposed $10 million multi-use bridge over Interstate 285. “They’re lying about figures, it’s transparency with this government here, I think we’ve lost the transparency.”