- Can Barry Loudermilk hang on to his surprisingly large lead from Tuesday’s GOP Primary and win the July 22 runoff in the race for the 11th District congressional seat?
- Can former Congressman Bob Barr, who many considered the clear favorite going into Tuesday’s 11th District primary, somehow overtake Loudermilk?
- Will the resurrection of Cobb Commission candidate Bill Byrne finally happen after a decade in the political wilderness?
- Which Commission District 1 “also-ran” is best positioned to run for that seat again two years hence? Yes, two years hence.
- Did the clumsy attempt by state Rep. Charles Gregory’s camp to smear challenger Bert Reeves as gay nearly work, or did it backfire and help cost Gregory his seat?
Answers to those questions, and more, are just ahead.
BOB BARR seemed to have all of the advantages at the outset of the race to succeed Phil Gingrey as 11th District congressman: He had by far the highest name recognition, befitting his high-profile days in Congress in the 1990s. He was presumed to have the deepest pockets in terms of fundraising. He also possesses a keen intellect and unrivaled skills as a debater.
So what happened on Tuesday? Barr not only didn’t win, he finished 11 points behind Loudermilk district-wide and nearly lost his home county, Cobb. Barr finished ahead of Loudermilk here, but only by 20 votes: 6,641 (or 28.60 percent) to Loudermilk’s 6,621 (or 28.51 percent). Loudermilk got 20,708 votes district-wide (36.60 percent) to Barr’s 14,596 (or 25.80 percent). Coming in third and fourth in both were Tricia Pridemore of Marietta and Ed Lindsey of Buckhead.
Loudermilk’s last-minute mailer publicizing the letter of recommendation Barr penned for Attorney General candidate Eric Holder in 2009 probably played an effect in Barr’s mediocre showing, as did Barr’s past flirtations with the Libertarian Party.
So will the 5,797 votes (24.97 percent) Pridemore collected in Cobb now shift to Barr in the runoff? A bloc that size could prove decisive for him. But both she and Lindsey told AT late this week they are not ready to endorse anyone yet.
Barr has always been a polarizing figure and still seems to have that effect on many voters. Did he already harvest all the potential Barr voters that are out there? Did Loudermilk make the most of an “anybody but Barr” electorate? Moreover, if so, can he do it again in the runoff?
Meanwhile, Loudermilk faces the challenge that primary front-runners always have: how to invigorate backers to go the polls again. Supporters of frontrunners often think their candidate has things wrapped up and their vote is not really needed.
Cartersville resident Loudermilk obviously made a strong first impression on Cobb voters, but will he wear well as the public begins to truly scrutinize him in the weeks ahead?
And will Cobb residents decide they would fare better by having a “homegrown,” known-quantity congressman (Barr) rather than one from up the road? If Loudermilk is elected, it would be the first time since at least the early 1980s the entire county was represented in Washington by a non-Cobb resident or residents.
BILL BYRNE resigned from the commission in 2002 to run for governor and lost, nearly ran against Commission Chairman Sam Olens but couldn’t find funding to do so, and then later tried to run for Polk County commission but was declared ineligible. Yet, he exploited the unpopularity of the TSPLOST and of Commission Chairman Tim Lee to shoulder his way into a runoff against Lee for chairman in 2012 and nearly won.
Now, he again is in a runoff with former Acworth Councilman Bob Weatherford and is just one tantalizing move away from being back on the commission.
Like Barr, Byrne has been a polarizing figure throughout his career, and like Barr, had a huge advantage in name recognition. But Byrne’s well-known baggage from his earlier stint on the commission had to have played a role on Tuesday. Three of the other four candidates in the District 1 race drew double-digit percentages of the vote on Tuesday, and many politicos with whom AT spoke late this week saw that as a case of voters being eager to vote for “anybody but Byrne.”
Moreover, the multiplicity of candidates (Angela Barner, Scott Tucker and Glenn Melson in addition to Weatherford) served to dilute the anti-Byrne vote in ways that won’t exist in the runoff. The public-safety vote, for example, had not one but two of its “own” to choose from: former Acworth cop Weatherford and former Marietta Assistant Fire Chief Tucker. (In fairness, Byrne, though he lacks a public safety background, has always had strong ties with the Cobb public safety community and was endorsed this spring by the Fraternal Order of Police.) And Barner and Weatherford both share the same political base — Acworth — which might mean more votes for Weatherford this time around.
IF BYRNE should somehow capture the District 1 seat, chances are he would try to use it from Day 1 as a springboard for another run at Lee for the chairmanship in 2016. That in turn would set up another race for the District 1 seat just two short years from now.
Should that happen, it’s not unreasonable to expect to see the same cast of characters then as we’ve seen this spring vying for the seat. Barner, Tucker and Weatherford all have shown they have strong bases of support, all now have a big race under their belts and all might feel the fire of political ambition starting to grow.
LOOK for Weatherford to soon pick up the endorsements of current District 1 Commissioner Helen Goreham, Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews and Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood — all three of whom were fixtures at his Election Night party at the Strand Theatre. … Barr picked up the endorsement on Friday of Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren.
FOR AN ELECTED OFFICIAL who made a big deal out of “standing on principle” as a reason to vote “no” on seemingly every bill that came his way in the state Legislature, Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) found it surprisingly easy to put principle aside and blow off the implications of a cringe-inducing campaign stunt perpetrated on his behalf — the dainty-voiced robo-call last weekend from a most likely fictitious group called “Global Action for Trans Equality” purporting to endorse Gregory challenger Bert Reeves “and his partner Matt” and claiming that Reeves would be an advocate for gay marriage if elected.
Gregory claimed no prior knowledge of the call and suggested Reeves himself was behind it — a CYA accusation those who know Reeves found both highly improbable and appalling.
It’s hard to gauge the impact of the call. It’s not known how many people heard it. Those who don’t know the happily hetero Reeves might have found it credible, but it surely energized the many who do know him to make sure they got to the polls on Tuesday to penalize Gregory, who has been an outspoken leader of the Ron/Rand Paul wing of the GOP in Cobb.
Is Gregory truthful in his claim to have been in the dark about the call? Only he and his circle know. But as one very high ranking elected Marietta official told Around Town on Election Night, “birds of a feather flock together.”
And those “birds” will be on the sidelines when the Legislature goes back into session next January — Reeves beat Gregory 52.4 percent to 47.5 percent.