In recent days, buzz has surrounded the Democratic primary race between Justin O’Dell and Diana Eckles, both Candidates for State House District 41.  Primary races are always contentious, and some more than others. Below is a response from Justin O’Dell that we have agreed to post. We’ve made the same offer to publish either a Q&A or candidate profile for Diana Eckles, which will be up asap. We all have friends on both sides of this contest, so let’s try and deal with this as amicably as possible so we may all remain friends afterwards. This in no way constitutes an endorsement of this candidate on the part of any authors of this site. Thank you.

Q: Let’s get to it, why are you running in the Democratic Primary?

A: First, I am a Democrat.  My ideals, views and positions are now and have been aligned with the Democratic Party, particularly on social issues.  This is even more true today as these social issues are being pressed to the forefront of the debate.  The recent legislative sessions only reinforced my decision.  In fact, the past Chair of the Cobb Republican Women called me the other day in reaction to some of this buzz.  She stated, “Justin, I don’t know what they are talking about, you have been arguing with me for years.”  By way of example, I am strongly opposed to HB 87 (immigration), strongly opposed to the requirement of drug testing for welfare benefits and I believe that HB 954 (restricting a woman’s rights to abortion) was one of the most offensive pieces of legislation promulgated since I came to Georgia.

Q: What about your Votebuilder profile?

A: Voting is an ineffective way to rate someone.  I believe that a person should be evaluated on the content of their character, not a piece of paper.  People vote in elections for a variety of reasons.  Quite often, in Cobb County, there are no Democratic contested primaries.  In other instances, it is important to vote for a particular seat in order to effect change.  Take July 2010 for example, the most important race that year for me (and most lawyers) was the State Senate.  John Wiles, who had become very extremist, hostile and non-responsive, was being challenged by Lindsey Tippins.  That race took priority for me over the Governor’s primary, particularly in light of the fact that most polling data had Roy Barnes clearly the primary comfortably.  I was actively and openly supporting Gov. Barnes at the time, but my vote in the State Senate, in what was sure to be a close race, took priority.  In July 2008, I had a similar situation with no contested primaries.  In this presidential year, the only contested choice was in the Republican presidential preference primary.  I had no interest in any possible scenario whereby Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich could ever become president.  Perhaps proving the point most dramatically, if Rep. Johnson had run for reelection and not drawn opposition, there would be no Democratic primary races on my ballot even this July.  On the Republican side, I would have the ability to elect some of the most important individuals in the County (the County Commission Chairman, the Cobb County District Attorney and the Cobb County Clerk of Superior Court).  Even the strongest Democrat and lawyer would find it hard to cast a Democratic ballot with no contested races rather than participate in the election of those key positions.

Q: Speaking of Cobb Republican Women, your name appears on some post on their website?

A: CCRW was kind enough to recognize me when I received the Justice Robert Benham award for Community Service.  The award was predicated largely on my work with Reconnecting Families, Inc. which supports the Cobb County Family Drug Treatment Court and Juvenile Drug Court.  CCRW has provided extensive charitable support to Reconnecting Families, Inc.  CCRW has awarded a scholarship to one of our graduating mothers and one of our graduating juveniles.  Those scholarships took individuals battling substance abuse and helped them turn life around.  As the Board Chairman of Reconnecting Families, I have tremendous appreciation of CCRW for their support of this program.

Q: What about concerns over your switching parties?

A: Prior to qualifying, I informed individuals within the Democratic party that I would be happy to meet with them so that they could evaluate my character and ask about my positions on various issues.   I held those meetings with all of those who were willing to meet with me, including leadership.  I answered any questions regarding issue positions and statements about party switching.  None of the leadership nor those officials that met with me and examined my character and issue positions have ever stated any objection to my candidacy for this seat.  More noteworthy, I am endorsed by Roy Barnes, Buddy Darden, Rob Teilhet and I am employed by a former Democratic State Representative.  These are public servants that I hold in high esteem and who also know me and my character.  The notion that I would do anything to betray their trust is beyond comprehension to me.

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7 Responses to Justin O’Dell, Candidate for State House District 41

  1. jules says:

    Interesting, I live in the reddest place in Cobb, Congressional Dist 6, State Senate 32, House 45.

    In 20 years I’ve never pulled a R ballot.

    Have I sat out primaries, sure..
    Have I put a GOP candidates yard sign
    Have I worked with Republicans at my job, sure am I related to them sure.. doesn’t make me one no.

    • Jen B. says:

      Well, I’ve made no bones about how I feel about cross-over voting. I’m not going to pull a Democratic ballot next month for no reason other than keeping my Voterbuilder file intact. I don’t plan on running for office and I’m not a state committee member. I’d rather vote on people who may be representing me in the near future.

      • jules says:

        Sorry if I wasn’t, clear… I don’t pull a R ballot for those reasons.. I just don’t believe in playing in other folks primaries much. I certainly wouldn’t want them playing in ours-as if thats ever going to happen in the near future.

        I was commenting in response to O’Dells reasons which in conjuction with all the other behavior i.e. yard signs for GOP, Voting in Presidential GOP Primaries and fundraisers for GOP candidates-frankly his VR file isn’t the only problem.

        Besides even if good Dems cross over, in his case it’s pretty much all the time, not the generally rare event.

        • Jen B. says:

          Oh, I agree. He voted in the Republican presidential primary when there was an extremely contested and ongoing Democratic presidential primary. That alone is extremely suspect.

          “I just don’t believe in playing in other folks primaries much.”

          I probably would have agreed with you a couple years ago, but this is increasingly becoming a one party state and I just got redistricted out of my Democratic house district and I might soon lose my Democratic senator, so.. blah.

  2. Jen B. says:

    I agree that Votebuilder is an inaccurate way of judging someone’s political tendencies. If you live in Cobb, you either vote in Republican primaries or have no say in your county gov’t.

    • Uh huh says:

      Here’s the problem, though. Presidential Primaries are held separately from local election primaries. In February 2008, for example, Mr. O’Dell could have pulled a Democratic ballot, choosing between such Democrats as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but instead he pulled a Republican ballot, and voted for one Republican or another. He then could have pulled a Republican ballot that July to, as he says, “have a say” in local elections. The same thing could be said this year, when, although on the Democratic side there was no contested Primary, he still pulled a Republican ballot. I, as a Democrat, proudly cast my 3rd vote for Barack Obama, the man I will vote for this November as well.

      Interestingly, though, his story about 2008 does not hold up, at least as far as I can tell. According to his voting record, he only pulled one primary ballot in 2008- the Presidential Preference Primary. In that one, obviously, he pulled a Republican ballot. He did not pull any ballot as far as I can tell for the state primaries that July, as he says he did.

      Frankly, I just don’t like being lied to. I can only trust a person if he or she is telling me the truth, and this example just seems to be one in a series of misdirections and lies coming from the O’Dell camp.