Cobb Commission: Byrne, Weatherford headed for runoff; Birrell keeps District 3 seat; Barr, Loudermilk to face off in bid for Congress
by Rachel Gray
May 21, 2014 04:00 AM | 9358 views | 12 12 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bob Weatherford, middle, embraces outgoing Commissioner Helen Goreham Tuesday night. <br> Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Bob Weatherford, middle, embraces outgoing Commissioner Helen Goreham Tuesday night.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Bill Byrne and his wife, Babe, watch election results come in. Weatherford and Byrne are headed for a runoff in the Commission District 1 race.
Bill Byrne and his wife, Babe, watch election results come in. Weatherford and Byrne are headed for a runoff in the Commission District 1 race.
Incumbent District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell greets friends Tuesday after learning that she avoided a runoff and is keeping her seat. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Incumbent District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell greets friends Tuesday after learning that she avoided a runoff and is keeping her seat.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — The crowded field of five GOP candidates vying for the District 1 Cobb Commissioner seat, which is being vacated by retiring Commissioner Helen Goreham, was whittled down to two finalists Tuesday night.

Although there was not one clear victor, Bill Byrne, a former county chairman who said he will not vote to increase any taxes if elected, was on top with 4,295 of the votes or 28 percent.

There are 102,730 active registered voters in District 1, according to Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler.

On Tuesday night, instead of completing his primary campaign, Byrne kicked off a runoff campaign at Shillings on the Square in Marietta.

Standing in front of a large big-screen monitor, Byrne and supporters watched as the first numbers trickled in. Before one entire precinct had been tallied, Byrne said District 1 would require a runoff election.

“When you have five people in a race without an incumbent, that is almost a given,” he said.

Byrne said out of the many campaigns he has run in his career, this was the first time he stuck to the original game plan.

“I don’t think we made any mistakes,” Byrne said about getting his message out through social media and traditional outlets.

Byrne was disappointed with the low voter turnout for the primary election, which included races for U.S. Senate and Georgia governor.

“I can’t figure that out,” Byrne said. “I don’t understand it.”

On July 22, Byrne will directly challenge Bob Weatherford, who resigned his seat on the Acworth Board of Aldermen to run for the District 1 position and netted 3,692 votes or 24 percent.

Weatherford, who had significant financial help from the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and backing from the network of members, said he was painted “as a career politician and the Chamber’s guy.”

“That is something I am not ashamed of,” Weatherford said. “Why wouldn’t they support me? I claim that as a badge of honor.”

Weatherford, who has served as chairman on the Northwest Cobb Area Council, said his message has been about experience and working with many entities in the county, including his treasurer position with Cobb Travel and Tourism.

“A budget is a budget,” Weatherford said about his experience.

Weatherford said because of his stature in Cobb, he was targeted as the candidate to take down.

“There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes,” he said, referencing “robocalls” that were used against him.

Still, Weatherford said the biggest campaign challenge was Georgia’s primary election being moved from July to May.

The condensed schedule meant that much of his message on the campaign trail was telling voters when to head to the polls, Weatherford said.

“On the other side, I am not sure I could have handled two more months of this,” he said.

Weatherford, who plans to spend some downtime this week riding his motorcycle, watched the results from the Earl Smith Strand Theatre on the Marietta Square.

For some, the race is finished

Angela Barner, a Re/Max broker associate who lives in Acworth, received 3,324 votes or 22 percent.

Barner said her top priority was improving public safety by better funding the Cobb police department and redesigning roadways to improve traffic.

Scott Tucker, a retired fire marshal and assistant fire chief who lives in Kennesaw, earned 2,896 votes or 19 percent.

Tucker, who voted early on Friday, said he had no preconceived notions of what to expect throughout the primary season.

The only expectation Tucker had Tuesday evening was that there would not be a clear winner and a runoff would be necessary.

Tucker said, due to the low voter turnout, a victory Tuesday was dependent on who had the biggest base of supporters, not who reached the majority of residents.

“You either prepared for it in your life or you didn’t,” Tucker said about the number of close friends in each camp determining the winner. “The people that are not already in somebody’s camp are not coming out.”

Tucker ended his day Tuesday with a gathering at the Marietta Pizza Company off Mary Eliza Trace in west Cobb.

Glenn Melson, who owns his own insurance firm, received 926 of the votes or 6 percent Tuesday.

Melson said the primary campaign season was what he expected when entering the race.

“As a first-time candidate, you realize you have to get out front and get the name recognition out there,” he said. “We ran what he felt like was a correct path.”

Melson attributed any momentum in his campaign to his focus on better pay for Cobb police officers, priority-based budgeting and traffic light synchronization with reversible lanes.

“I was looking not just to point out problems, but present solutions,” Melson said.

Although there were disagreements about issues, Melson said he did not feel attacked or misrepresented.

“From me and towards me, I didn’t see any mudslinging,” Melson said.

On Tuesday night, Melson watched the results with a small group of supporters.

“I am going to finish this campaign the same way I started it, right here at home,” he said.

The winner of the July 22 runoff will face Democrat Derrick Crump in November.

Crump, who was born in Queens, N.Y., and has lived in the city of Marietta for the last eight years, said all the candidates “did a great job running a clean campaign” and “showed their passion for Cobb.”

Because the field was so full, Crump said the primary season covered an array of issues, but it was hard to dig deep on any one issue.

With only two candidates in the general election, Crump said there will be more of an opportunity to go in-depth.

Although Crump attended all the District 1 Republican debates and forums, on Tuesday evening, he “wouldn’t even dare say” who would be coming out ahead at the end of the primary race.

Candidates for District 3

On Tuesday, three other Republican candidates hoped to fill a different position on the Cobb Board of Commissioners, and — as many pundits predicted — the incumbent will remain in the seat.

JoAnn Birrell, the incumbent commissioner for District 3 who voted early on Friday, won 8,477 votes or 63 percent.

There are 106,390 active registered voters in District 3, according to Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler.

“I felt I had the larger support group and backers,” Birrell said about her large lead. “But with two contenders, you can’t take anything for granted.”

Birrell said she ran on “a good track record” with votes showing where she stands on issues.

Birrell said her opponents lacked political backgrounds or experience, with “really no platform to run on.”

She added her opponents did not attack each other, but often misrepresented her.

“I was hoping for a sweep because I was really wanting to avoid a runoff,” Birrell said after celebrating at Cherokee Cattle Company on Canton Road.

One of Birrell’s opponents, Michael Opitz, a mediator who lives in east Cobb, has been campaigning on the promise of making local government transparent.

Opitz, who voted early last week and watched the results from Shillings on the Square, garnered 2,915 votes, or 22 percent.

Elected officials are not “dictators,” Opitz said, which means citizens must take charge by participating in America’s democracy.

Still, Opitz said the primary did not go far enough to address issues voters have with the BoC, mostly because there was not a public debate or forum with all three District 3 candidates. Birrell did not participate in any of the public forums for the district.

“It is expected that you draw a comparison,” Opitz said, who added there was no chance to hold Birrell accountable and force an explanation of her positions. “The citizens were cheated out of hearing that.”

District 3 candidate Joseph Pond, a plumber who ran on a campaign of smaller government and lowering taxes, received 2,142 votes or 16 percent.

While standing on a street corner holding a sign Tuesday evening, Pond said “the people needed a voice” because Cobb residents feel “betrayed” by their elected officials and the “good-old-boy system.”

The only challenge Pond said he faced in the election was Birrell not debating the issues face-to-face.

“I didn’t expect the incumbent to hide in the bushes,” Pond said.

Pond, who watched the results from Winston’s Food & Spirits on Sandy Plains Road, said the District 3 race was a clean campaign.

“If there was any mudslinging, I wasn’t aware of it,” Pond said. “I didn’t see any cheap shots.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Bob's love affair
May 21, 2014
So it is not an act; Bob Weatherford really just does not get it! He claims that he was a target because of his standing in the community. lol

No Bob, it is due to your love affair with more taxes. You gained the negative stature when you strongly supported the TSPLOST BEFORE and AFTER it was destroyed at the polls.

Your new love of the BRT Bus tax and HOST tax and the Cobb Braves tax is just crazy and does not represent West Cobb.

Sorry - Bob West, Cobb Voters just do not want Tim Lee (and his Loud lapdog) stealing the West Cobb vote. I am even hearing rumors of fake groups which Lee has set up to run a dirty campaign through.
May 21, 2014
"She (Birrell) added her opponents did not attack each other, but often misrepresented her."

Odd complaint from someone who ducked 3 debates to avoid being accountable.

Why did she not participate and "Represent" her position.

Birrell Won. District 3 and Cobb lost.

May 21, 2014
Sad day to see Birrell re-elected.
May 22, 2014
Two-thirds of voters in Birrell's district don't agree with you. Birrell won. District 3 and Cobb won. Would you rather have the chicken guy that fixes toilets for a living and has absolutely no government experience whatsoever except for applying to "house more chickens" win? Pleazzzeee. This was a landslide from the beginning.
May 22, 2014
Have you ever heard Michael Opitz Debate?

She did not want to face him nor defend her Braves vote.

The Chicken man was just noise and you know it or should.

Interesting you picked the bottom guy instead of the middle guy to talk about.
Sure Would
May 22, 2014
At least he would have represented the people, not big business- Cobb, as we know it, is headed down the tubes. Goodbye suburbs, Hello business center.
Sgt Major Grunt
May 21, 2014
@byrne dont understan

In two words, Sour Grapes.

Now run along and catch up on the latest from your secular progressive democrat blogs.

byrne dont understan
May 21, 2014
Byrne doesn't understand low voter turnout for the primaries for the same reason he is partying at Shillings on the Square: He is old, out of touch, and has a taste for the bland status quo.

That said, he is probably an excellent pick to represent East Cobb, but might do even better in Cherokee County where half his constituency moved 20 years ago. The other half is still upside down in their McMansions and are just waiting for the day they can sell and get away from all these minorities in East Cobb!
Rick Z
May 21, 2014
He's running to represent West Cobb, not East Cobb. But thanks for your input.
Jennifer A.
May 21, 2014
Think he was confused cause Byrne has run for so many different positions. It's hard to keep up.
Ben Twomey
May 21, 2014
@byrne dont understan

I think I would go back to bed and pull the covers over my head and stay there for the rest of my life had I made as big a fool of myself as you did.

At least we, in East Cobb, even though old and decrepit know the difference in East and West.

You, sir, apparently think East and West are synonymous terms.

D*mn, I hope you are not a product of the Cobb County School system. If so,we need to hold off on the Common Core until we teach a little Common Sense.
nobody understand
May 21, 2014
Far as I remember Birrell is the anti chicken lady and the chicken guy lived in East Cobb, but East Cobb, West Cobb, whatever.. The only difference is whether you turn left or right off I-75 after driving too far before driving even further, except I guess for all the minorites and rentals in East Cobb. Yes, India Indians and Asians are minorities!

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