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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.

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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