The Cobb Tea Party and Republican Party are seeing new faces at their meetings. While it makes them feel better that attendance is up and some of these new faces become paying members, there is the worry that some of these strangers are just opportunists.
Back when the Democrats dominated Georgia and Cobb politics, it was common for opportunist’s to show up at Democratic meetings. Republican Attorney General Sam Oleans was elected treasurer of the Cobb Democratic Party. East Cobb Republican state Rep. Don Parsons was a Democrat, Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal were Democrats too. These were powerful people who would be powerful regardless of what party of opportunity they chose and they all chose more than once.
Beneath this top layer of powerful people are different types of opportunists. The business opportunists come to meetings trying to network. They have a pocketful of business cards, a big smile, and a strong handshake.
Political opportunists are the bright young lawyers and business people looking to get elected in order to advance themselves economically. For example, at a Sierra Club meeting, the lobbyist for the organization was explaining what was going on in the Capitol. Someone asked, “What is the motivation for the crazy things that Republican legislators do, values, philosophy, what?” The lobbyist said that most of them are looking for a job.
Cherokee County Senator Chip Rogers was getting more and more extreme when Gov. Deal offered him a state funded job with public radio. Rogers said yes in a heartbeat and saw his income increase dramatically. In Cobb, Don Parsons’ legislative relationship with the energy sector and his energy consulting business keep him from looking for a job. Rep. Rich Gollick has a relationship with the insurance industry that could not be more profitable, even if he wasn’t in the state legislature. Both Deal and Purdue made public office a personal money maker.
How do you tell an opportunist from a true believer? Back when the Democrats were powerful, a lot of strangers showed up at the Cobb Democrats monthly breakfast to get two minutes with the microphone. Dale Cardwell (Trust Dale) once ran for the US Senate in the Democratic primary. He showed up and said a few forgettable words. After the meeting, some Democrats tried to pin him down on specific economic policies. Dale said that he was for the Fair Tax, which would eliminate income and property taxes. Dale claimed that it would work well for everyone. When informed that it was a sales tax that would benefit the rich, harm the poor, and not pay for itself with its unreasonably low sales tax rates, he got defensive. He repeated the numbers and percentages. Obviously, he never checked to see if the numbers added up.
Dale was informed that he was quoting discredited Republican economic theory to a group of Democrats who could add. He eventually got out the political business and hopefully is doing well.
Former Republican County Commissioner Woody Thompson had a similar faux pas. The longtime Republican saw the demographics of his South Cobb district change and was beaten by an unqualified Democratic opponent which surprised Democrats and Republicans alike. Woody changed parties, became a Democrat, and defeated the lady who had defeated him.
He was invited to be the featured speaker at a Cobb Democratic Women’s meeting. Woody gave the same speech that got applause at the Chamber of Commerce and Republican meetings. He said that low paid public school workers who worked in the cafeteria, mopped the floors, and drove buses should be fired and replaced by privatized workers at reduced pay and benefits. To a Democratic audience, these people were moms and dads who supported families and were a part of the community. Some were Republicans, some were Democrats, and some were non-partisan but to the Democratic women, these school workers were all human beings. To Woody, they were an opportunity for a rich Republican business man to get richer and not worthy of concern or empathy.
Woody lost the next election to a representative of the people, Lisa Cupid. South Cobb is justifiably proud of their commissioner. In a better world, county commissioner would be a non-partisan position and Lisa would have won by a bigger margin. South Cobb showed the rest of the county that you don’t have to be a political opportunist or extremist to win.
The other county commissioners know that if they didn’t have an “R” next to their names, they couldn’t get elected dog catcher. They are wondering that if one qualified person can be elected county commissioner, how safe are their jobs. Also, Commissioner Cupid won’t be asked why she gave $300 million of Cobb taxes to some rich guys who didn’t need the money