He raised plenty of money and hosted plenty of events, but his campaign never projected a feeling of momentum or excitement. The ever-ambitious Barr still seemed to have plenty of fire in his belly, and he dominated every debate in which he took part. Yet few people go to debates. Eventual winner Barry Loudermilk of Cartersville had the better-organized, more active campaign with legions of door-knockers working west Cobb subdivisions.
Barr could never overcome the stigma of having left the Republican fold for the Libertarian ranks, and his ever-“evolving” stands on a parade of issues (gay marriage, illegal immigration, illegal drugs) left him an easy target for Loudermilk. And when Loudermilk brought to light a letter of recommendation Barr had penned in 2008 on behalf of Eric Holder for U.S. Attorney General, it left many in the district muttering “What the #*%$ was Barr thinking?”
Barr also was stung when popular Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin endorsed Loudermilk, and Barr seemed clueless when he responded by ballyhooing his own endorsements by two of the least popular elected Marietta officials in the city’s recent history. In addition, his decision to dredge up fellow faces from the past such as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, former Congressman J.C. Watts and has-been rocker Ted Nugent for endorsements didn’t seem to light many fires with voters either and contributed to his campaign’s sense of being “yesterday’s news.”
THE BOTTOM LINE? Loudermilk beat Barr by a 2-to-1 margin and won all four counties in the district. Any candidate who cannot win his home county is usually doomed, and that was the case for Barr on Tuesday. He knew going in that he would have to win Cobb by a big margin. But he lost Cobb by 4,277 votes out of 22,905 cast.
Barr’s share of the votes Tuesday (33.94 percent) was scarcely bigger than the share he garnered during the five-person primary (28.54). And interestingly, when one adds the percentages earned on primary night by Loudermilk (28.65), Tricia Pridemore (24.92) and Ed Lindsey (14.33), they come to an even 68 percent — essentially the same percentage Loudermilk polled Tuesday (66.06). In other words, during the runoff Barr was able to attract almost none of those who had supported the other candidates the first time around.
MUCH HAS BEEN MADE of how Georgia Republicans nominated a political outsider, David Perdue, to run for U.S. Senate this fall, and how they rejected three Congressmen in the process (Jack Kingston, Marietta’s Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun). That dynamic seemed to be at work in the 11th District race as well. Yes, Loudermilk was very much an insider during his service in the state Senate. But to many voters in the district, he was a fresh face when compared with Barr.
THE OTHER BOB on Tuesday’s GOP ballot, District 1 Cobb Commission candidate Bob Weatherford, had a much happier time of things that evening, crushing former Commission Chairman Bill Byrne’s latest comeback attempt by a 61.5-to-38.5 margin.
Weatherford had been one of the few willing to predict such a landslide, telling Around Town at the recent Sheriff’s Corn Boilin’ he would “smoke” Byrne. Turns out his crystal ball was right.
The size of the win had Weatherford in a crowing mood as he declared victory just after 10 p.m. to a room crowded with close to 100 people on the second floor of the Strand Theatre.
“Help keep me straight,” he said. “The good news is that I won. The bad news is that I won.”
He attributed his win in part to the 8,000-plus phone calls made on his behalf that day.
Among those in the crowd were a number of Cobb Chamber A-Listers, including Rob Garcia, Jim Rhoden, Devan Seabaugh, Greg Morgan and Mike Paris, all donors to Weatherford, whose Chamber ties had come in for heavy criticism from Byrne during the campaign.
Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee, who recruited Weatherford for the run, was at that night’s commission meeting rather than the victory party, but probably was the happiest man in town thanks to his not having to face the prospect of having Byrne back on the commission.
MUCH has been made during Byrne’s recent campaigns about his unsuccessful 2008 attempt to run for the Polk County Commission a few years back, and the comments he made that were highly critical of Cobb in the process. (Byrne’s hopes were dashed after that county’s board of elections ruled he did not meet residency requirements.)
Weatherford recycled the episode in his ads and referenced it again in his victory remarks.
“I’m really worried about Polk County,” he joked to the crowd. “If you know anybody there tell them to leave quick! I’m sure Bill will run for something over there!”
As for himself, Weatherford said he will “take a few days off. Try to stay out of jail. Ride my motorcycle.”
And he added to the crowd, “I’ve got a Democratic opponent this fall (Derrick Crump). I have met him and he’s a nice guy. I will beat him with kindness.”
SPEAKING OF CRUMP, he picked up support from an unexpected corner in the wake of Tuesday’s results.
An email from Byrne’s account written to a campaign supporter by Byrne’s wife, Babe Atkins-Byrne, and copied to AT by her Thursday complained now “West Cobb has no representation. You need to meet the Democrat who is running. He … seems to be smart and knows the issues. His name is Derrick Crump and he will get our votes. He has attended a lot of the forums where he participated and others when he was just there to observe. We like him — just as we have liked all of our opponents except Weatherford.”
“I’M NOT GOING TO DISNEYWORLD — I’m going to Cooperstown!” an exuberant Cobb Superior Court Judge-elect Ann Harris happily announced to supporters as she declared victory at her party late Tuesday night at The Local.
Cooperstown, N.Y., is where Atlanta Braves legends Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox will be inducted Sunday into the MLB Hall of Fame. An added plus for Auburn alums Harris and husband Jim is a fellow Tiger also is being inducted that day, retired slugger Frank Thomas.
Harris, a senior assistant Cobb district attorney, pulled off arguably the biggest upset of all in this campaign season, outlasting two better-known opponents (Juvenile Judge Juanita Stedman and repeat candidate Nathan Wade) in the non-partisan race to succeed retiring Judge Jim Bodiford.
Stedman seemed the clear favorite of much of Cobb’s political establishment. Her donor list and runoff night party were packed with a veritable “who’s who” of well-known faces. Harris’ party was equally crowded, but with more of a “who are they?” group of supporters. She was endorsed by her boss, D.A. Vic Reynolds, was cheered on by Reynolds’ predecessor Pat Head, and among those smiling at her party was 1980s/’90s-vintage D.A. Tom Charron, now Cobb Superior Court administrator.
MORE POLITICS: Candidate for state school superintendent Richard Woods will be guest speaker at today’s Madison Forum breakfast at The Rib Ranch. ...
Loudermilk won handily Tuesday, but it was hard to find much enthusiasm for his candidacy — or Barr’s — in Cobb. As one local politico told Around Town at Wednesday’s Marietta Rotary meeting, “It was like trying to choose between a colonoscopy and a root canal.”