Hill and Kemp campaign signs line Canton Road leading up to the polling location at Noonday Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)

Cobb Commission incumbents stave off challengers — for now

Both incumbent Cobb County commissioners survived the Tuesday’s primary challenges, despite backlash over a pending budget deficit and proposed tax hike.

The unofficial results, however, showed that plenty of voters remain dissatisfied with their current representatives.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp emerged as the top finalists in Tuesday's election.

District 1 West Cobb Commissioner Bob Weatherford will face neighborhood advocate Keli Gambrill in a Republican runoff in July after neither captured more than 50 percent of the vote. No Democrats qualified for the race.

District 3 East Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell defeated local businessman Tom Cheek for the Republican nomination. She will go head to head against Democrat and stay-at-home mother Caroline Holko in November.

Weatherford said he ran on his record, and has no plans to change his strategy going into the runoff.

“The majority [of voters] are concerned about closing services that they’re used to,” such as shuttering some libraries, Weatherford said.

He did not rule out supporting a millage rate increase.

“We’re going to look at every option,” Weatherford said. “If that’s something that’s necessary to keep the level of services, I would support it.”

Gambrill, for her part, credited her strong showing to her years as an advocate for homeowners in the county’s zoning process. She is a familiar face in West Cobb as the head of People Looking After Neighborhoods.

Gambrill said she would continue to campaign on responsible budgeting, “preserving the character of West Cobb” against over-development and advocating county-wide input on transit.

“I don’t see us changing course because the issues that face the constituents have not changed,” Gambrill said. She declined to state a position on the millage rate, saying she wanted answers about why the county isn’t reaping the economic benefit of billions in economic growth.

Commissioner Birrell said her victory was the result of her “constant contact” with constituents throughout her eight years in office and her record of getting things done.

Birrell said she also heard concerns about the budget and libraries from constituents. She seemed leery of raising taxes but remained noncommittal.

“I have said all along that we have to look at everything,” Birrell said. “We can’t just arbitrarily say we’re going to raise taxes.”

Holko, who won the Democratic nomination, sounded optimistic that East Cobb, despite its reputation for staunch conservatism, was ready for a change. She pointed to the Sixth District election battle between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel as a major turning point in the region.

“I campaigned exclusively on progressive values and I sincerely believe there are more progressives in East Cobb than people realize,” she said.

Holko was the only candidate to campaign on raising taxes.

“We chose to live here because of the amazing amenities that Cobb has and we understand that things cost money,” Holko said. “You can’t provide services without a budget.”

She said she would like to meet in the coming months with local civic groups and drill deeper into issues related to zoning and land use.

On the school board, pediatric dentist Jaha Howard defeated Angelia Pressley, a public relations professional, for the District 2 seat. Without a Republican challenger, Howard is all but assured the seat in November.

In Kennesaw, Tracey Viers defeated Kemela Carlson to assume Post 2 on City Council.

In Smyrna, Tim Gould and Idella Moore will compete in a runoff for the City Council Ward 6 seat.

Related Stories