At least three candidates will face off in the Republican primary that day, with the winner to face whoever wins the Democratic primary that day in November. (To date, no Democrats have declared their candidacy for the office.)
Incumbent Chairman Tim Lee is being challenged by former Commission Chairman Bill Byrne and political novice Mike Boyce, a retired Marine colonel who declared his candidacy on Tuesday.
Lee and Byrne are well known to local voters, with Byrne serving as chair for most of the 1990s and Lee representing east Cobb on the commission for much of the 2000s and then serving as chair since last year. Boyce, though a county resident for 11 years, is much less well-known. The former aviator boasts a distinguished military record with service in three combat zones and in the Pentagon as well. He ran briefly for Congress several years ago against U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) but dropped out before filing the required paperwork.
Boyce told the MDJ on Tuesday that his decision to run for chairman was fueled in part by Lee’s decision to raise taxes rather than cut spending this year in order to balance the county budget.
“The problem now is … I thought you were a Republican,” Boyce said of Lee’s decision. “Why would you advocate for tax increases?”
He disagrees as well with Lee’s strong support for the TSPLOST light-rail proposal, saying it would result in the county being responsible for huge subsidy payments every year to cover maintenance and operating costs.
Fellow challenger Byrne has also been sharply critical of Lee on both of those issues.
The race is shaping up as one in which one candidate favors rail transit (Lee) and two do not; and in which one candidate favored a tax hike to balance the budget (Lee) and two who did not.
At least one other potential candidate (Larry Savage) is known to be interested, and, generally speaking, shares many of the views of Byrne and Boyce. There may be others who surface as well.
It’s way too early to be endorsing candidates. But what can be said with certainty is that unlike some past contests for this and other important elective offices that were based primarily on personalities, or which attracted poorly prepared or “nuisance” candidates, it appears that next year’s contest for the Cobb chairmanship will be issue-based and feature a field of capable candidates, with others very possibly still to come. And that in itself bodes well for Cobb.