ACWORTH – The two candidates vying to replace Scott Johnson as chairman of the Cobb Republican Party, pilot Darryl Wilson of east Cobb and travel agency owner Joe Dendy of west Cobb, squared off in debate Thursday.
Republican House District 35 Chairman Anthony-Scott Hobbs and others hosted the event at Daddy’s Country Kitchen in Acworth, with a turnout of about 30.
Among those in the audience was former state Rep. Roger Hines of Kennesaw.
“Have you ever seen politics go the way it ought to go as it did tonight?” Hines said. “They both did well. I’m a longtime friend of Joe Dendy.”
The election for GOP chair will occur on March 12 at Roswell Street Baptist Church. Chairman Scott Johnson is term-limited from running again.
Wilson, 50, a pilot for United Airlines, has previously run unsuccessfully against state Rep. Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb) on the Democratic ticket, as well as against current Cobb school board member David Banks. He is currently the first vice chair of the Cobb Republican Party.
A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Wilson attended Kentucky State University and served in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aviator and flight instruction. He and his wife, Sherrae, have four children.
Wilson said while he intends to vote against the county’s March 15 special purpose local option sales tax, as GOP chairman he would listen to the voices of the citizens.
“We do want to support our elected officials, but at the same time we are the party of less taxes and limited government,” he said. “And that’s why we have a SPLOST. There’s a reason why the word ‘option’ is in there. It’s not only an option to fund these certain projects at certain levels. There’s an option not to have it at all.”
Wilson said while it’s great that Cobb has had a SPLOST program, it may be time to take a break from the tax.
“It may be time because SPLOST I, II and III have varying degrees of problems with them,” he said. “We talked about earlier today some of the issues with programs where projects were being built or managed with illegal immigrants. That’s obviously not a good thing for us. We’re out there trying to stop illegal immigration, yet we’re having it on the back end, so I think, personally, we should probably pause on SPLOST and take another look, make sure the SPLOST lines up with the regular voting cycle so we don’t spend that extra $400,000 to have it on March 15, but put it back in November. You don’t have to have a tax every time we turn around. Some numbers come out that the SPLOST represents $600 per person. For a family of four that’s $2,400. In this economy do we really want to do that for parks and rec?”
Dendy, 66, took a different view.
“My idea of a party chairman is you don’t get involved in policies,” Dendy said. “Principles, yes. You stand for your principles and you stand strong for those principles no matter what. But when it comes to policymaking, we leave that up to people like (Republican state Rep. Ed Setzler of Acworth), the people down in Atlanta at the state House.”
Dendy said the job of chairman is to organize and lead.
“How can you lead if you’re sitting there taking sides with different groups? …I think it’s the job of the party chairman to lead the group, educate the group. Bring in the two sides, three sides or however many there are to educate and then let the people decide on their own to make an educated decision. I do not think it’s the place of the party chairman to set policy or to state policy on things like the SPLOST or if we need to replace a particular representative that may be not doing what some think he should be doing.”
For the record, Dendy asked Rose Wing, who is heading up the pro SPLOST group named Citizens for Cobb’s Future, to run on his slate of candidates as 1st vice chair.
A native of Laurens, S.C., Dendy and his wife Billie, have two children and 10 grandchildren. Dendy most recently served as state Rep. Sam Teasley’s (R-Marietta) campaign manager, and raised $100,000 for Gov. Nathan Deal after the primary. He has also served as state director for Mike Huckabee’s Georgia campaign, and served on the campaign for Hines when he ran for state school superintendent.
Dendy owns a travel agency, which he runs out of west Cobb. A graduate of Clemson University, he served five years active duty in the Army during the Vietnam War, obtaining the rank of captain.
During the debate, Wilson called on Republicans to support their fellow elected Republican officials.
“Find ways to get involved year around,” Wilson said. “Year round means that Kathleen Angelucci has her first town hall as a school board member on March 8. It’s critically important that she get support from conservative Republicans because if you haven’t been to a school board meeting and seen some of the things what other people from the other side are doing – it’s horrendous. It’s shameful, actually.”
The three new school board members, Angelucci, Tim Stultz, and Scott Sweeney, have been unfairly maligned for simply honoring their campaign promises, Wilson said.
“We need to support her and Tim Stultz and new folks like Scott Sweeney, those three are holding true to their campaign promises,” Wilson said. “Someone needs to put some people in check. And I don’t understand the school administrators. … They’ll all do well if we come out and support them as a community. We elected them and we elected them for a reason and we need to come out and support them.”
Candidates also addressed the topic of how to help Jason Shepherd, who lost to state Rep. Terry Johnson (D-Marietta) in the last year’s election.
Dendy said the problem was there weren’t enough resources to devote to both Teasley’s campaign and to Shepherd’s.
“It would have helped if he had more volunteers,” Dendy said.
Dendy said he wanted to have year-round projects to keep the base active so that when the time came to knock on doors and make phone calls, the volunteers would be there.
Dendy says while there are around 800 delegates eligible to vote in the March 12 election, he expects a turnout of between 350 to 400.