The former Georgia congressman recently resigned as secretary of Health and Human Services following reports that he used private jets and military aircraft for traveling at a cost of more than $1 million.
Former Cobb GOP chairs Rose Wing and Scott Johnson are still supporters of Price, expressing dismay at his resignation. Cobb GOP activist Donna Rowe of east Cobb said his resignation has not changed her opinion of Price either.
“No, it doesn’t,” Rowe said. “I’ve known Tom for a long time. I have no problem with his integrity, with his ethics.”
There are a number of things to consider about Price’s travel, said Rowe, who also serves on the Development Authority of Cobb County.
“No. 1, you got to look at the timing,” Rowe said. “When were these flights? Do you want him standing in line with a bunch of people at Delta and get on an aircraft where someone can take out a knife and stab him to death as secretary of Health and Human Services? Or is there a directive that says everyone is to be very protective of themselves and be very careful? Maybe there was a directive.”
Johnson, who also serves on the Georgia Board of Education, said while he can’t know if every travel decision Price made was the best one, “I do know that the best use of the HHS secretary during this pivotal time for health care in our nation isn’t spending time walking through and waiting in airports. I also know that someone in his position charged with making big decisions about the president’s health care agenda can’t work sitting between strangers on a commercial flight. The issues he is dealing with are far too sensitive. During private or military flights the work can continue. Sometimes that’s just what needs to happen.”
Wing said she couldn’t speak about the flights since all she knew was what she read in the news.
“All I know is that Secretary Price has always been a man of strong conservative values and principles for Georgia, and I hope and feel he will continue to be a champion for those conservative principles and values as he moves forward in his future and I wish him well,” Wing said.
Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd said his initial take after speaking with Republicans around the county and state is that there’s a feeling there is more to Price’s resignation than just the travel issue. As for whether it was the right call for Price to resign, “I think in the end, President (Donald) Trump is the boss, and if he’s not happy with the way Tom Price was doing his job — whether it was travel, whether it was (health care proposal) Graham-Cassidy, whether it was something that hasn’t even come to light yet — those decisions have to be made,” Shepherd said. “I hate it for Tom Price. It’s sort of something Republicans across Georgia are really scratching their heads about, but one thing is we know we don’t know all the facts. I think everyone would love (some answers) when Tom gets back to Georgia.”
Shepherd said there is still a lot of support for Price among Republicans. Johnson said he still has his support.
“With me he does. Whether or not one questions his judgment on the travel expense issue, Dr. Price understands public policy from that of a physician, a state legislator, a member of Congress and a member of the president’s cabinet. His knowledge, wisdom and leadership remain valuable to the people of Georgia,” Johnson said.
Wing also hopes Price will continue to be involved in the conservative movement.
“I foresee that he will continue, and I certainly hope he continues to push the conservative principles within our state and our nation. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Tom Price. He still has a lot of support here. I wish him well and look forward to seeing him involved within the party and the conservative movement,” she said.
Shepherd pointed out how Price is from the area, represented part of Cobb County in the U.S. Congress and has been active in the Republican Party for more than 20 years.
“We consider him family. He’s part of the Republican family, especially in the north metro, and I think everyone is very interested to hear his side of the story,” Shepherd said.
State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, believes Price’s resignation was the right thing to do.
“If you think about it, Tom Price has spent his whole career railing against government excess — and rightfully so. And as soon as he gets the chance to get in that seat, he decides that he wants to partake in the excess of what he criticized his whole career,” Wilkerson said. “I mean, if commercial flights were good enough for every previous secretary, I don’t know why he’s different or better than anybody else who’s served there. If you look at it, even the president thinks the same thing. It made the president look bad. The president ran a campaign on the working class getting the short change from elected officials, and Tom Price comes in there and does exactly what people said they didn’t want to see.”
As for why there isn’t more outrage from local Republicans, Wilkerson believes it’s because Cobb Republicans stick together.
“They just typically stay quiet and wait for it to go away,” Wilkerson said. “I hate to reference something that’s completely different, but if you look at when their former chair was arrested, you didn’t see as much outrage as you should have seen,” Wilkerson said, referencing former Cobb GOP Joe Dendy, who pleaded guilty to child molestation and is now in prison. “It was, ‘Well, let’s see what happens when the court date happens.’ They stick together. It’s not surprising that they’re sticking together because that’s what they do. I can’t think of any actions they would find egregious enough that they would decide to criticize (Price), whether it’s the stock trade, whether it’s this — there has become a pattern over the last several years. This is not the first time the financial aspect (of Price’s actions have) come into question.”
Rowe says Price probably did the right thing in resigning because the controversy was becoming a distraction to President Trump’s administration. But she fingered the national media, not Price, for fanning the flames because she said the media is hostile to Trump.
“The press is going to make a big deal about anything they can about anyone that happens to be serving with this particular president,” Rowe said. “If it had happened in the first Bush administration, if it had happened in Ford’s administration, if it had happened in the Obama administration, it wouldn’t be a big deal. ‘OK, you’ll pay back flying. Over and done with.’ Everything he (Trump) does is wrong, and everyone around him is wrong, like the secretary of state, they’re trying to run all over him today,” Rowe said.