Political experts in Cobb pointed to a variety of factors, including name recognition, endorsements and a strong ground game, as the reason some candidates succeed while others did not.
Some pundits predicted the results of the race for a seat on the Cobb Board of Education, but were surprised by how one-sided the election was as Susan Thayer defeated incumbent Tim Stultz by a significant margin; Thayer received 3,030 votes, or 70 percent, while Stultz took home only 1,271, or 30 percent.
“We thought all along she would win,” said Tana Page, executive director of the Georgia teacher’s organization Educators First. “We were rather surprised at the margin … that she won by.”
Page added the results show voters overwhelmingly want new representation.
“She is a fresh face on the board, and I think that was what the public wanted and what educators probably wanted,” she said. “We were ready for a change. We did not think Mr. Stultz … was open to hearing a lot of the concerns that are faced by educators.”
Anthony-Scott Hobbs, former chairman of the Cobb GOP, said the school board race was decided by financial issues.
“Let’s be honest, Tim didn’t have any money. None. I can only imagine that Thayer was able … to get out some direct marketing campaigns, some direct mail, what have you,” he said. “But I think once again, what it comes down to that kind of a vote spread, it all boils to down to how the campaign is run.”
Hobbs also pointed to recent comments made by Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon concerning the school board and what he says is a lack of funding coming to south Cobb.
“I think once again, … when you look at how people are voting, does it matter to them? Do they get excited about fiscal responsibility? We hope they do … especially for that area and … especially after some of the comments that the mayor in Smyrna made, not necessarily about Tim, but, I think, more so about ‘We want the money.’”
Thayer goes on to face Democrat Kenya Pierre in November for the District 2 seat on the board.
Loudermilk’s ground game puts him over the top
Meanwhile, in the race to be one of Georgia’s representatives in the other chamber of the U.S. Congress, former state Rep. Barry Loudermilk defeated former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr to become the presumptive 11th District Repres-entative for the state of Georgia.
Loud-ermilk received 34,641 votes statewide, or about 66 percent, compared to 17,794 votes, or about 34 percent, for Barr. In Cobb County, Loudermilk took 59 percent of the vote, good for 13,591 votes, compared to only 9,314, or 41 percent, for Barr.
Kerwin Swint, a professor of political science at Kennesaw State University, argued Loudermilk’s endorsements from religious and conservative organizations, such as FreedomWorks, resonated with the types of voters in District 11.
“He’s a conservative, family-based candidate in a conservative district, and so his issue concerns and policies lined up very, very closely to where a majority of voters in the district are,” Swint said.
Scott Johnson, former head of the Cobb Republican Party, said he wasn’t shocked Loudermilk won, but the margin of victory was somewhat surprising. In a runoff election, he said, the key is getting your supporters out to vote, adding Loudermilk’s “excellent ground game” may have been the difference maker.
“He had a number of volunteers that were following the classic formula of knocking on doors and ringing telephones,” he said. “I think that it was a by-the-book campaign.”
Endorsements the key in local races
In the race to replace retiring Commissioner Helen Goreham on the Cobb Board of Commissioners, Bob Weatherford, former Acworth alderman, received 9,523 votes, or 62 percent, while his opponent, former county chairman Bill Byrne, received only 5,960 votes, or 38 percent.
J.D. Van Brink, chairman of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party, said Weatherford’s endorsements could have been a difference maker.
“I know that Bob Weatherford had quite a few high-profile endorsements,” Van Brink said.
Weatherford was endorsed by Goreham, all six of Cobb’s mayors, the president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, David Connell, and the chairman of the Cobb chamber, Ben Mathis.
Swint also believes Weatherford’s support from big names in Cobb County may have put him over the top.
“Weatherford has a record. He’s not a newcomer,” Swint said. “He was backed by the local chamber, backed by a lot of local political figures, community figures.”
Weatherford will now square off against Democrat Derrick Crump in the general election.
Mean-while, in the race for a seat on the Cobb County Superior Court’s bench, former prosecutor Ann Harris received 30,993 votes, or 62 percent of the vote, to defeat Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman, who took home only 19,260 votes, or 38 percent.
Van Brink said endorsements may have been the key in this race, as well.
“(Harris) had a really good ground game, and she had very good endorsements, too. I know she had (Cobb County District Attorney) Vic Reynolds endorsing her,” he said. “And he has a very high popularity rating amongst the people that I know.”
Outsider status lifts Perdue
In the runoff election for the Republican nomination for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat, businessman David Perdue received 245,725 votes statewide, or about 51 percent of the vote, while former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston only received 237,193 votes, or 49 percent. In Cobb County, Perdue received 25,359 votes, or 53 percent, and Kingston took 21,827 votes, or 47 percent.
Swint cited Perdue’s name recognition — he is the cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue — and his status as an outsider as major factors in the race.
“I think, for some voters, all they had to hear was that you have some guy from business who’s never held office before running against somebody that’s been in the House for 22 years,” he said. “I think that right there affected the vote in a big way.”
Johnson agreed with Swint’s assessment.
“I think his status as an outsider, being able to run against Washington — which is a pretty popular thing to do these days — and name recognition (helped), but also people that had a good feeling about working with the former governor felt good about supporting David.”
Perdue faces Democrat Michelle Nunn in November’s general election.