There’s been no small amount of confusion over exactly who Steve Rasin has endorsed in the runoff to succeed retiring Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon.
Of the 7,918 votes cast in the five candidate race for mayor on Nov. 5, Smyrna Councilman Derek Norton received 47.04%, Ryan Campbell received 24.79%, Rasin received 21.92%, Laura Mireles received 4.9% and Alex Backry received 1.26%. As no one obtained more than 50 percent of the vote, it triggered a December 3 runoff between Norton, who has been endorsed by Bacon, and Campbell, darling of the Cobb Democrat Party, despite this being a nonpartisan race.
The endorsement confusion began after Campbell told the MDJ earlier this month that Rasin had endorsed him for mayor, a statement that generated a quick rebuttal from Rasin, who said he had endorsed no one.
The plot thickened last week when Norton’s campaign announced that in fact Rasin had endorsed Norton for mayor.
That announcement prompted an email to the MDJ from the Campbell campaign:
“Attached please find the link to Mr. Raisin’s endorsement of Smyrna Mayoral candidate, Ryan Campbell at Mr. Raisin’s election night …” the Campbell campaign wrote in its email, linking to a video of Rasin saying he would support Campbell. (Despite accepting that endorsement, the campaign did not take the time to learn how to spell Mr. Rasin’s name.)
“Yesterday (Friday, Nov. 22), Steve Rasin did a 180-degree flip flop and formally endorsed my opponent. My platform hasn’t changed, my ideas haven’t changed, nor have my opponents. Smyrna voters are smart. I will leave it to the voters to decide what happened. Backroom deals have no place in Smyrna government. I will always be transparent, consistent, and ethical in my dealings as Mayor of Smyrna. Our city deserves nothing less. All the best, Ryan For Smyrna Campaign.”
In the video, Rasin says, “Do not despair. I’m going to support Ryan in whatever he has to do to beat Derek Norton. We can’t have another Max in office. That’s not an option.”
What to make of this confusion? Around Town rang Rasin to inquire.
“The true story is this: On the night of the campaign, in the midst of all the excitement or disappointment or whatever, I said that I would try to — not endorse, but support the Ryan Campbell campaign for mayor that came out on that video,” Rasin explained.
As it happened, a woman recorded him saying that and dispatched that recording to Campbell before he got a chance to properly talk with Campbell about the matter, Rasin said.
“After that party, I called him on the phone and I told him that I was going to need a couple of days to figure out what I needed to do,” Rasin said.
Meanwhile, the Campbell campaign took the video footage as an endorsement, hence Campbell’s call to the MDJ saying as much.
Rasin said it took him a couple weeks to figure out what he wanted to do, and decided to sit down with both candidates.
After a second meeting, he decided to endorse Norton for mayor.
From his talks with Norton, he came away with the belief that while they didn’t agree on everything, Norton was someone who would listen to what he had to say.
“I got no such feeling when I talked to Ryan about some of the decisions that he made,” Rasin said. “In all honesty, part of the reason I think Derek would do a better job as mayor is Ryan is young. I hate to put any labels on, but he’s of the millennial age — they want things now. I think that in time Ryan would probably do a good job as mayor. I just don’t think he’s ready and I told him as much. I said, ‘It’s not your time yet. I don’t think you’re prepared. You haven’t lived long enough to understand the kind of decisions you’re going to make and the ramifications of those decisions.’ So we went over all of that stuff.”
As for Campbell’s insinuation of some kind of backroom deal, Rasin dismissed this as false.
Rasin said the fact is he and Campbell both discussed their political plans before either announced their candidacy.
“And I did not want to have two African American men running for the same job in the city of Smyrna, because if you’re familiar with African American voters, it’s hard to get them to come out to vote unless there’s a super big reason why,” Rasin said. “We talked about that. I was going to run for mayor and Ryan was going to run for another office in the county.”
When Campbell called Rasin to tell him he was running for mayor also, Rasin said he was flabbergasted.
“His reason was he had always wanted to be mayor of Smyrna. Now I’m 67 years old. When somebody 26 tells me they’ve always wanted to do something I’m not exactly sure what that means. So he’s anxious. He’s impetuous. I think he’s an intelligent individual but he told me he wasn’t going to do it and then he said he did.”
Had they stuck to their original agreement, the race may have turned out differently, Rasin said.
Rasin, a graduate of the Naval Academy, said if Campbell had done something like that at Annapolis, he wouldn’t be there for long.
“They don’t put up with that sort of thing,” he said.
Ultimately, Smyrnans will have the last say when they determine whether to choose Norton or Campbell on Dec. 3.
MOBILITY: At last week’s “mobility summit” organized by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Chris Tomlinson, head of three different state agencies, praised the Northwest Corridor Express lanes that opened last year.
Monday morning, a Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson went into more detail during an MDJ reporter’s visit to the organization’s “Transportation Management Center.”
“The impact that that has had on congestion in that corridor — it’s almost indescribable,” said Scott Higley, GDOT’s director of strategic communications.
Those who can afford to use the express lanes spend 30% less time on the road than those using the general lanes, he said.
But that’s to be expected.
“The great news about the express lanes is, everybody wins,” Higley said.
Traffic in the general lanes is moving 20 miles per hour faster than it was before the lanes opened, he said.
“The State Road and Tollway Authority or the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority was telling us that they were having problems with maintaining their bus schedules for their regional express bus service because the buses were arriving significantly earlier to their stops than they were before,” he said.
More of those lanes are coming, “and that’s exciting,” Higley said. “Especially when your city is the poster child for traffic congestion, right up there with Los Angeles and the greater New York area.”
PAYING IT FORWARD: Jay Cunningham, owner of Superior Plumbing, has long donated Thanksgiving food or cooked for members of the community, according to company spokesperson Tina Myers.
Myers says 22 years ago, Cunningham and his family began cooking for and serving everyone at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston in Druid Hills. Cunningham still donates the food needed for that tradition, which will probably feed around 1,000 people this year.
This year Cunningham offered to buy his employees full Publix Thanksgiving dinners — complete with a turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes and even a pie from Honeysuckle Biscuits and Bakery in Kennesaw. The gift didn’t stop with the staff. Meyers said 21 out of the 53 Superior Plumbing employees who were to receive a free Thanksgiving dinner asked if they could donate their meal to families in need. Those meals have been given to school social workers and nonprofit organizations to deliver.
Others were hand-delivered to needy families by the employee who decided to make the donation. One donation was delivered Monday to the Cobb firefighters at Station 24, who will be working the Thanksgiving shift, and multiple were part of the Cobb Mental Health Court’s Tuesday Thanksgiving feast.
“All the employees are aware of how generous (Cunningham) is,” Myers said, while wrapping a donated dinner to be taken to a group of Cobb schools social workers for distribution to a needy family. “The culture that he’s created by just doing has just spread to his employees. It’s really a cool thing.”
HAPPY TURKEY DAY: “The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we all can agree so vehemently about? I don’t think so,” says Nora Ephron.
Around Town wishes you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. We will return next Wednesday.