Dollar Gets Run for His Money
An East Cobb state representative is facing rare Republican primary opposition from political newcomers.
When he was first elected to the Georgia General Assembly as a 24-year-old in 2002, Matt Dollar pledged to be a strong voice of fiscal conservatism and "a good steward of taxpayers' money."
The Pope High School graduate believes he's done just that from his East Cobb base, where he's had only Democratic opposition in the last two elections in a heavily Republican district.
But one of his two opponents in next Tuesday's GOP primary claims Dollar has been an invisible, inaccessible lawmaker who hasn't accomplished much in his five terms.
Cynthia Rozzo, founder and publisher of the EAST COBBER magazine and creator of the title's community parade and festival, and medical records software business owner Nick Johnson are giving Dollar a challenge to his incumbency in East Cobb's District 45, which takes in portions of the Pope and Walton High School attendance areas.
Rozzo and Johnson making their political forays against Dollar, who said his "passion for the [legislative] process and a passion for this area" stoked during his college days at the University of Georgia remain as strong as ever.
"My objectives continue to be to keep government out of people's lives and to help them keep more of their money in their pockets," said Dollar, a business consultant and real estate broker.
Rozzo said her disappointment with Dollar's tenure prompted her to run. She's highly critical of his lack of town hall meetings and says he hasn't adequately communicated with district voters.
"I thought that somebody else would run, would hold him accountable," she said. "It never happened. He's been coasting every two years."
Rozzo, 50, voted the East Cobb Citizen of the Year for 2011 by the East Cobb Area Council of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, is touting her background as a small business owner, community advocate and mother of three children (Walton, Dickerson and Timber Ridge school districts) in her campaign.
"I feel like I'd be coming down there [to the General Assembly] with a fresh approach, for the people of East Cobb," Rozzo said. "For the people who care about what's going on in the community, they want to be heard and to be served."
Johnson, 30, a Sprayberry High School graduate, said he's not running specifically against Dollar but to advocate a strong fiscal and cultural conservative voice in the legislature.
He said he doesn't know much about Rozzo, but from what he's seen of her campaign, "there's not a lot of substance. She seems to be a little non-committal" on issues. "She just seems to have Matt Dollar in her sights. I'm not sure that's what people want to hear now. I want to win, but I want to win on the issues."
Johnson said he would have weekly town hall meetings, making sure to reach constituents in all of District 45's precincts. "I want to have an open-door policy" that would also incorporate the views of citizens who have different views, said Johnson, a husband and father of three young sons, two of whom attend Murdock Elementary School.
He's also adamant about "stemming the tide of outrageous spending" in the General Assembly, and is a strong pro-life supporter (he believes life begins at conception) and Second Admendment proponent.
Dollar said he conducted town hall meeting early in his legislative career, but discontinued them because of low attendance. He also said constituents can sign up for his e-newsletter on his website, and countered Rozzo's claims that he's out of touch by saying that he tries to respond to every e-mail and phone call "the same day."
But Dollar's strongest criticisms of Rozzo challenge her conservative credentials. She's a newcomer to Cobb Republican politics; he notes her endorsement by RuthE Levy, Dollar's Democratic opponent in 2008 and 2010, that includes a robocall to vote for Rozzo.
"I haven't talked much about my opponents," Dollar said, "but I wouldn't want a Democratic figurehead endorsing me and doing a robocall."
Like Dollar and Johnson, Rozzo says she opposes the TSPLOST referendum and is a critic of the federal health care law, recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, that requires individuals to purchase health insurance.
"I'm thrifty and I am bothered by the waste in state government," she said.
According to disclosure reports filed this month with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, Dollar has a huge money advantage over his challengers. His contributions total more than $166,000 (much of it carried over from previous campaigns and reporting periods) and he has nearly $104,000 in cash on hand.
Rozzo has raised more than $12,000 (including $10,000 she has loaned to herself), and has nearly $6,500 in cash on hand.
Johnson has raised nearly $3,500 and reports having nearly $2,400 in cash on hand.