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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 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  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 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, and 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 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 . 

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.

Frank July 27, 2012 at 03:34 PM
As a member of the republican party and the Cobb delegation, Dollar has supported the: * Charter School Amendment, and * The ludicrous boundaries for the school board elections which miserably fail to take feeder patterns and communities of interest into consideration. Ask Rozzo and Johnson where they stand on these issues and what actions they will take as elected representatives.
RuthE Levy July 27, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Let me be clear. I am supporting Cynthia Rozzo, NOT because she is in any way a Democrat trying to wear Republican clothing, but because she has already demonstrated her caring for our community and her ability to get things done. She has done more for East Cobb as the owner of the East Cobber and creator of the parade and festival than Matt has accomplished from his seat at the Capitol in 10 years. I have interviewed Ms Rozzo at length and find her to be a true Republican to her core. Because of her dedication and commitment and her can-do attitude, because of her involvement and presence in the East Cobb community, because she is a communicator, I know she will make a fine Representative. For all of us. RuthE Levy, former candidate, GA house District 45
Susan McCoy July 27, 2012 at 07:53 PM
That Ruth E. Levy is a democrat and endorses Cynthia Rozzo indicates how highly she thinks of Rozzo over Dollar and that Ms. Levy has the gracious ability to overlook political party for what is in the best interest of out community, unlike polarizing, straw-grasping Dollar. So Dollar actually held a meeting once and it was poorly attended so he decided to stop communicating with his constituents? Doesn’t seem like that stopped him from going to lunch with cute lobbyist and “communicating” with them since they have contributed over $70,000 to his reelection campaign. It's time to retire Dollar, who has no interest in signing a pledge to limit gifts from lobbyist. And I’m sure Dollar does return phone calls and messages placed to him because the links that actually work on his web site are to contribute funds, volunteer on his campaign or have a yard sign delivered. Where is the history of the legislation he has introduced in the last ten years? I can’t find it anywhere and it appears to be nonexistent. Where is the history of what Dollar has worked on for our community as a House Rep over the last TEN YEARS? It might have been okay for us to look the other way when he was a freshman rep elected at the age of 24, living at home and having his mom do his laundry, but Dollar has had time to mature into this leadership position and he has failed to do so.
Susan McCoy July 27, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Cynthia Rozzo is the kind of woman that I am in awe of and inspires me to be a better member of my community. She founded the EAST COBBER magazine, and has published and owned it for the last 19 years. When you take your family to our beautiful annual East Cobber community parade, she is the one that makes all the magic happen. Year after year she makes our community a better place to live. She has attended many of the community meetings and she has NEVER seen Dollar in attendance. Cynthia has her hands on the pulse of our area and understands the concerns and challenges facing families and businesses. She has seen Dollar's inaction and knows firsthand that we deserve better representation. Cynthia, a wife and mother of three children attending local schools, decided she was no longer going to wait for someone else to step up nor sit back and watch our incumbent clown coast into another two years of doing nothing exceptional for our community. I highly commend Cynthia for wanting to provide solutions and taking action to make that happen.
Susan McCoy July 27, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Cynthia is not someone I see regularly nor am I in continual contact with her. But, the day after my house fire, we drove back to the house to assess the damage and Cynthia Rozzo was standing on my front porch holding bags of homemade food. Lots of it. She didn't call me to ask what she could do. She didn't schedule a time. She cooked for us and she showed up to share her food with us. She just did it and made it happen. That is who Cynthia Rozzo is and that is who you want representing you in the State House East Cobb.
Rich Clarke July 27, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Didn't Dollar vote for putting the TSPLOT to a referendum.... so how then does he oppose the referendum as this article states. ODD.
RuthE Levy July 27, 2012 at 08:38 PM
If you go back to the MDJ article in 2010 that details what the candidates stand for, you will find that Matt said at the time that he supported TSPLOST. I guess somewhere in the intervening time period, he changed his mind.
Jeff B. July 27, 2012 at 08:58 PM
If you go to Dollar's website and click on "Issues" he lists 3 different bills (HB 386, SB 33 and HB 861) Dollar suggest he either "worked to pass" or was "key in passing". If you search the bills themselves, he isn't listed as a sponsor on any of them. He must be very good at back room lobbying...
RuthE Levy July 27, 2012 at 09:21 PM
To be fair, in order to see what legislation Matt worked on, you really need to go to the GA Legislature web site and do a search for Matt's name. When you do this, 5 pages of bills come up that he signed onto. Tax bills, insurance bills, license plate bills, and three pages of "commends" in which the Legislature officially commends someone or an organization for something he/she/they have done. The only ones that have Matt's name in first place are the ones that are "commends" bills.
Jeff B. July 27, 2012 at 09:44 PM
No axe to grind here. And perhaps I am misinformed. I would just say that one might expect to see experienced representation leading the charge on legislation (sponsoring) rather than quietly supporting it in the halls... Be nice to see one Dollar driven bill... I'll probably vote for him just because it takes a while for newbies to gain respect and have any impact at all.
RuthE Levy July 27, 2012 at 10:02 PM
You can find out if Matt has ever taken the lead by checking the pre-filed bills. I don't think so. Matt has had 10 years to take the lead and he hasn't done it. Judson Hill submitted bills from the very beginning of his tenure. How long do we have to wait? I have no doubt that Cynthia will gain respect when she walks in the door of the House because she is intelligent, does her homework, and works with others well. When she came into this community 16+ years ago, she saw a need to bring East Cobb together and give it a face, so she took action. She started the East Cobber and the festival. That was no small feat, and what it has done for East Cobb is immeasurable. She has already gained the admiration and support of many of our local leaders. I know she will have their support when she gets to the House. A vote for Cynthia is a vote well spent.
Mike Futral July 27, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Rep. Dollar's claim that he tries to return every email and phone call the same day rings hollow with me. Over the last 3 years, my wife and I have emailed and sent letters by USPS to Rep. Dollar many times. We have NEVER received a reply, not even a form letter. The only communication of any kind that I can recall receiving from Rep. Dollar is this season's campaign literature. I have met Cynthis Rozzo, and discussed local issues with her at length. I find her to be very well informed, articulate, conservative, and passionate about the East Cobb community. I'm confident that she will be a significant upgrade to the quality of responsive representation for District 45.
SOGTP July 28, 2012 at 09:42 AM
Matt Dollar is a Liberal just like the Democrats in this state. He gets a Liberal 44 score at the rating website Elect the Right Candidate (http://www.electtherightcandidate.us/ETRC/Elect_The_Right_Candidate.html). Matt Dollar opposes local control of schools as he voted NO on HB 147 to increase local control. Dollar voted YES on four key pieces of Liberal Democrat legislation SB 36 - Prescription Drug Electronic Database which increases centralized control of the state, HB 225 - Agenda 21 Sustainable Agriculture Bill, HB 374 - A Bill for state control of examination of hair dressers, and finally SB 88 - Increasing the age for children to be put in booster seats. A real Liberal Democrat nanny state piece of legislation. Nick Johnson over Matt Dollar any day and never a Democrat over a good Republican like Nick Johnson.
SOGTP July 28, 2012 at 09:47 AM
"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." You can vote to increase the size of the centralized government in Georgia for schools nor mandate parents stuff their eight year olds into booster seats and be for limited government. It just doesn't work that way Matt Dollar. Matt Dollar is a Liberal, fake, phoney, RINO, deceptiCON, Republican.
Casper Jackson July 28, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I looked on the website and Rep Dollar sponsored or co-sponsored about 35 bills last year. But I actually wish it was less – I don’t think we need More laws. I’ve spoken with Matt a few times and I’m much more interested with the bad bills he’s helped stop!
Casper Jackson July 28, 2012 at 03:05 PM
One more thing, every time I've contacted Matt on an issue, by email, he's responded within hours. All our neighbors that I've talked with along Murdock seems to support Matt and feel the same way.
Ted Lawrence July 28, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I am recently retired but spent many hours at the Capitol over the years. I am thrilled that Matt is our State Rep. He is the hardest worker down there. We are fortunate to have his youth and energy working for us, and he has been there long enough to have become a Chairman and can actually get things done.. He is the youngest member to have achieved this seniority and we need to keep him.
KLoechl July 28, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Cynthia Rozzo is an admirable community leader and has done a lot for East Cobb. I met with her and found her to be friendly and engaging and with a real devotion to East Cobb. However, I have become concerned that she is primarily running against Matt Dollar and the T-SPLOST, but taking only very general positions on a few other issues. There are many other issues facing us in East Cobb and in Georgia that she would vote on but her campaign literature and website does not include concrete stands on any other issues. Cynthia's critique of Matt Dollar not communicating well about what he is working on in the legislature resonated with me. I talked for quite a while with Matt Dollar today about my concerns and I feel satisfied about his specific positions on key issues, and I understand why he now opposes the TSPLOST (project list that came out after the vote to put the TSPLOST to referendum was very different from what the Cobb legislative delegation members were promised). As for communication, I was impressed with the time he spent talking to me about my specific concerns and how quickly he reached back to me to talk with me about those concerns, and I have better confidence that he will be responsive and communicate better to the voters in the future. My vote is going to Matt Dollar.
Sarah Palmer July 28, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I was a bit confused about "Bill Sponsors" myself, so I did some research. I found that a legislator can be a sponsor of a bill but only the first six signers show up on the Internet. Also interesting was apparently, on many high profile bills, those first six slots are "reserved" for legislators in tight districts where they often face strong Democratic opposition. As far as responsiveness, I have to give credit to Rep. Dollar as he returned my call promptly several months ago. He was well informed on the subject matter, helpful, courteous and professional. On the other hand, I've contacted other Representatives over the years and had no response whatsoever.

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