“They don’t feel welcome there right now,” said Ivutin, a 35-year-old father of three who lives in Smyrna. “Joe Dendy does not relate to those kind of folks.”
Ivutin, a small businessman who attends Andy Stanley’s Buckhead Church, said the mission of his church is to create an environment that nonbelievers want to attend.
“Our goal was to create that kind of environment in the Cobb GOP where people who are interested in politics might be interested in attending our events,” he said.
Childhood in the Soviet Union
Ivutin refers to himself as just a guy with a different perspective than most Georgians.
“I experienced socialism; I know what it looks like. I know what a socialist looks like when I see one by their voting record, and I’m not afraid to say it,” he said.
Ivutin grew up in Russia on the Chinese border in the city of Khabarovsk. He was 14 years old when the Soviet Union collapsed. His mother was a high school teacher while his father served in the Soviet military before he was kicked out.
“Right now he’s an alcoholic. That’s his full-time job,” Ivutin said.
Ivutin and his brother, who lives in Moscow, had a difficult childhood.
“Me and my brother were malnourished in a way,” he said. “When the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, such remote areas were not getting sufficient supplies. We had to stay in line for two hours in minus-40 degrees to get some milk. Then there were times there was absolutely no food.”
The farther away from Moscow one lived, the worse it was, he said.
“That’s how every centralized planned government works,” he said. “We had shortages of everything. Childhood was really tough.”
When the Soviet empire imploded, Ivutin said all hell broke loose with a breakdown of law and order.
“It was the Wild West, and my hometown was the capital of organized crime in Russia,” he said.
Much of the 1990s was chaos until Vladimir Putin assumed control.
“When Putin came in, he kind of got it under control,” Ivutin said.
Many Americans have a skewed understanding of what capitalism and communism are, Ivutin believes.
“A lot of Americans think China is communist and America is capitalist,” he said. “But when you go to China, you realize that it’s vice versa. In China, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Here if you don’t work, you weigh 400 pounds. And people call them socialist and us capitalist? How is this possible? There is so much more socialism here than I’ve seen in the Soviet Union.”
Moving to the U.S.
Ivutin met his wife, Kelly, a Cornell University graduate who was teaching in his hometown, and the couple married in 2001, then moved to Massachusetts.
Missionaries he met in Russia offered him his first job in Atlanta, and he built homes before the market died. He then started his own manufacturing businesses, manufacturing synthetic stucco out of a Mableton office with a staff of seven. He also has a shipping business, shipping cars and boats overseas and works in real estate.
He and his wife have three children, ages 8, 7 and 4, with two of them enrolled at Nickajack Elementary School.
It was a neighborhood dispute with Glock that sparked his interest in local politics.
“Glock basically bought up a bunch of land around our subdivision and built a factory 80 feet underground,” he said. “So they built heavy industrial right next to the neighborhood.”
Ivutin blames Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon.
“If Max Bacon is the mayor, everything is allowed,” he said.
But Ivutin branched out to national politics as well, contributing to the campaigns of Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul.
Voting for Ron Paul
He was elected as a Georgia delegate for District 13 at last year’s Republican Convention in Tampa, where he brought along state Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) as a guest.
“In Tampa, according to our establishment, everybody was supposed to vote for Mitt Romney as our nominee, and me (and two others) we voted for Ron Paul,” Ivutin said.
Ivutin insists he had the right to vote for the candidate of his choice.
“We were Newt Gingrich-bound delegates, and when he released us, that means we’re free, and that’s what some people don’t understand,” he said. “They think that once we went there, we were supposed to vote for Romney, but we were free.”
Ivutin said the Georgia Republican establishment put tremendous pressure on him not to vote for Paul.
“It was real bad,” he said. “They all told us that you have no political future. I was told that if you decide to run for anything in Cobb, there is just no chance because you didn’t vote for Romney.”
But Ivutin saw Romney as someone he couldn’t trust, since he had flip-flopped on so many issues.
“I didn’t trust the guy, and I wanted us to win the election,” he said. “Romney was the weakest candidate we could produce. Whether it was Herman Cain, whether it was Ron Paul, we would have won the election with this economy.”
A ‘constitutional Republican’
It’s a mistake to refer to Ivutin as a Libertarian since he is not a member of that party, he said. Ivutin refers to himself a “constitutional Republican.”
Dendy recently said it does little good to denounce Republican officials such as U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss just because they don’t always vote the way you want them to vote.
“You’ve got to work with him,” Dendy said.
Not so, Ivutin said. Not when they use the power to increase the size and role of government.
“This is the problem. They always think that they need to get something done,” Ivutin said. “They think that their productivity and their success is in passing more laws. I believe that the more laws we pass, the less freedoms we have, because every single law that they pass, they take away more freedom. If they would concentrate on getting rid of a lot of laws, they would do a lot more good for us.”
The trouble with Dendy is that he fails to hold the officials in the Republican Party accountable, Ivutin said.
“They need to know what’s going to come when they come back home, and this environment that Joe Dendy is trying to protect where these incumbents have absolutely no accountability, and I think it might come from his whole attitude as he sees his place in the chain of command, and he sees these elected officials as people who are superior to him, and people underneath him are people who are under him, so what is obvious to me is he values the elected officials on top of him a lot more than the grassroots activists under him,” Ivutin said.
The Republican Party in Cobb is in trouble, and it’s only a matter of time before the county returns to a Democratic majority, he said. There is a way to stop this, but it’s not the way Dendy is leading.
“You start attracting people into Cobb GOP and not kicking them out just because their views are different than yours,” he said.
While losing the election for Cobb GOP chair, Ivutin pledged to remain active in the party to hold it accountable.
Gregory shared some things he admires about Ivutin.
“I like him because he supports the principles of limited constitutional government,” Gregory said. “And because he is a motivated, capable and articulate person, an all-around good guy. I look forward to supporting him in whatever direction he decides to take in his life or his career.”