"The grand ideas of Ronald Reagan live…in young Americans like Jason Shepherd…"

MDJ: It’s McCain or Bust

By Ashley Hungerford
Marietta Daily Journal Staff Writer

MARIETTA – With all the key players in place before the start of this week’s Republican National Convention, a contingency of 20 Cobb residents, serving as delegates and alternates, are arriving in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minn., as part of the Georgia delegation.

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R – Ariz.), the Republican presidential nominee, announced his running mate, Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, on Friday.

State GOP Chairwoman, and east Cobb resident, Sue Everhart has been in Saint Paul since Monday working on the party’s platform committee. By the end of last week, she was saying she couldn’t wait for her delegates, alternates and Georgia guest to get up to Minnesota to join in on all the excitement.

“The first time I came, I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said. “It’s going to be the most exciting week that the Republican Party has since 2000 when we nominated George W. Bush. … I wish I could have brought all of Georgia.”

Everhart said she, along with Gov. Sonny Perdue, will answer roll call, pledging 100 percent of Georgia’s 72 delegates to McCain.

The 39 district delegates and alternates were chosen at district conventions in April. The 30 state delegates and alternates were chosen at the state convention in May. The remaining three delegates are representatives from the state committee.

Everhart said one thing that is always interesting to see is all the major players from the Republican Party in one place.

She said she’s looking forward to hearing speeches by President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

But Everhart said the day most delegates remember is Thursday night when the candidate formally accepts the nomination.

“If you see it on television, it looks like a lot of hoopla,” she said. “But in person, it’s a defining moment in history.”

This is Everhart’s third consecutive national convention. This year she’ll serve as delegate chairman for the Georgia delegation.

She’ll be responsible for coordinating all of Georgia’s, including her fellow Cobb, delegates.

“I’m excited that so many of our home folks will be here,” she said. “Cobb’s well represented in this delegation.”

One of the delegates from Cobb, Smyrna attorney John Sours, describes himself as an original “McCainiac.”

“I’ve been waiting for more than eight years to be a part of what will happen this week,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the confirmation of McCain as the Republican nominee, which I’ve waited for a long time to see.”

This is his fourth Republican National Convention, having attending in 1992, 1996 and 2000. He said this one is even sweeter with McCain on the ticket.

Sours serves on the state advisory committee for McCain and the Georgia Veteran Coalition for McCain.

One of the prized pictures in his Galleria office is a photo of him with McCain during the 1996 convention in San Diego.

The Vietnam War is a unifying tie for the two men, he said.

Sours served in Vietnam with the Army in 1971. When he returned, he said the POW-MIA organization was selling bracelets with the name and missing date of a solider to raise money. Sours got one with McCain’s name on it.

“This guy has been a hero of mine for years,” he said.

Besides his respect for McCain’s military service, Sours said he believes McCain is a person of “great moral courage and tremendous personal integrity.”

“I admire the maverick streak in him, and I know that he seeks to do the best thing for the nation as a whole,” he said.

The convention is a new experience for several of Cobb’s delegates.

Stan Wise, northeast Cobb resident and commissioner for the Georgia Public Service Commission, is a first-time delegate.

He said he views McCain as a “viable candidate,” whom he said he’s passionate about.

“For all my life, I’ve known that I’m a conservative, and I see no reason to change now,” he said. “With John McCain, you don’t have to guess where he’s coming from. He has no hidden agendas. What you see is what you get. He is a leader, with a tract record. He’s lived and breathed it.”

As an elected official, Wise said he’s very interested in discussions about energy policies at the convention.

“I’ve been talking about an energy crisis in my profession for 15 years,” he said. “There is clearly a difference between the candidacy of the Republican and Democratic leaders. ”

He said many of the “failed energy policies” pushed by Democratic leaders don’t explore resources at the nations disposal or acknowledge enough alternative energy sources, like nuclear.

Wise said he has real concerns over Democratic Presidential Candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s plan to implement a carbon tax. He said it could easily increase electric bills 60 to 100 percent.

“We’re a coal burning state; so lets not try to punish a section of the country that is not viable for wind or solar,” he said. “In this era of tight supply and extremely high prices, the carbon tax will be a regressive and punitive taxes put on the people of this state. It has not been fully played out.”

As a self-described political junkie, Wise said he sees the convention as the “icing on the cake.”

Cobb Chairman Sam Olens is one of the alternate delegates. Like Wise, this is his first time to a national convention.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity – to be able to watch and be engaged in a major political process,” he said. “Very few people have this opportunity to attend and actively participate.”

Olens said the whole opportunity is a great civic lesson. He said the opportunity to go and personally listen to so many respected leaders helps him become a better chairman for Cobb.

“The more people I meet and hear from, the better chairman I am,” he said. “This is an unbelievable education experience that will make me a better elected official in Cobb County.”

Although he served on Mitt Romney’s state team during the primaries, Olens said he believes “without question that Senator McCain is a superb candidate with the fortitude, intellect and integrity to make the necessary difficulty decisions.”

Cobb Republican Party Chairman Scott Johnson is also one of the alternates attending the convention. This is also his first national convention.

“I’m looking forward to the whole experience from being with the Georgia delegation, especially the people from Cobb, to having the honor of witnessing the nomination of a great American – Senator John McCain,” he said. “I’m energized about the whole experience. It’s one that not many people get to experience.”

As chairman of Cobb’s Republican Party, Johnson is not surprised that Cobb is sending such a large delegation.

“Cobb is a leader when it comes to the Republican Party,” he said. “Cobb Countians are very involved in the electoral process, especially Cobb Republicans.”

GOP efforts to elect McCain; other Cobb residents and politial figures attending the RNC

As they head to the conventions, all of Cobb’s representatives are in agreement this is a historical election year.

Everhart said she does agree with speculation that Georgia could be in play this presidential election, but she said that just gives her more determination to hit the campaign trail at the grassroots level.

“We’ll come back to Georgia and work the state to be successful in November,” she said. “Republicans are going to do what Republicans do best, and that’s the grassroots effort going door to door. We’ll go door to door until Monday, Nov. 3, and I’m going to be one of those people going door to door.”

Johnson said he’s not as convinced that Georgia’s in play this year.

“But we taking nothing for granted,” he said. “We’re still going to work hard and make sure Georgia and Cobb County goes strong for McCain. We’re still a red state.”

Johnson said the convention is really a springboard for the next two months until the November election.

“I’m hoping that afterward, John McCain has the bump to a successful campaign to the White House,” he said.

Many of the elected state and federal officials from Cobb will also be representing the county at the Republican National Convention.

U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R – Marietta) will be attending part of this week’s convention. It’s his second.

“This election cycle is very different and very exciting,” he said. “For a major political to nomination an African American as their candidate is so exciting. And then you have a man like John McCain, who was a prison of war.”

Gingrey describes McCain as a “great American and a great patriot.”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R – east Cobb) also plans to attend a portion of the convention.

“Political national conventions are always exciting,” he said. “We know the players and everyone can focus on the candidates.”

Isakson said the conventions are great “tried and true traditions” where people can participate on the grassroots level.

He said his fellow senators experience, especially military, is invaluable for the times.

“At a time when we have great challenges and we need a great leader, Senator McCain will strive to do what’s best for the country,” he said. “To me, he’s the perfect nominee for the times we’re in.”

Other local officials expected to attend include U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R – Roswell), state Sen. John Wiles (R – Kennesaw) and state. Sen. Judson Hill (R – east Cobb). State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R -east Cobb) was elected as a delegate and State Rep. Ed Setzler (R -Acworth) was elected to serve as an alternate to the Georgia delegation.

Other Cobb residents in the Georgia Delegation to the Republican National Convention this week are – Randy Evans, delegate; Peggy Henderson, alternate; Jason Shepherd, delegate; Toria Morgan, delegate; Sam Teasley, alternate; Edmond “Phil” Daniell, delegate; Robin Jade Morey, alternate; Tim Stultz, alternate; Anna Cablik, delegate; Shawn Davis, delegate; Linda Evans, delegate; Carolyn Meadows, delegate; Joe Dendy, alternate; and Lori Hullett, alternate.

Other Georgia officials expected to attend the convention are U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

Although not all of Cobb can attend the convention this week, Johnson said the Cobb Republican Party is planning a McCain watch party Thursday night at Three Bears Cafe on the Marietta Square to watch the acceptance speech.

ahungerford@mdjonline.com