Candidate profile: Mike Boyce, Cobb Commission Chairman

Cobb budget town hall, Mike Boyce, Cobb public safety bonus, Cobb millage rate

As the county’s Republican standard-bearer in the Nov. 3 general election, Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce has made it clear for several weeks that party turnout has to be better than it was during the June 9 primary that he won with ease.

Even though he dispatched two GOP candidates with 68 percent of the vote, Boyce got only half the overall vote as the unopposed Democratic candidate, Cobb commissioner Lisa Cupid, his general-election foe.

She received 90,446 votes to 45,257 for Boyce, whose absentee votes (28,493) trailed Cupid’s election-day results (36,145).

In a year in which absentee balloting is looming large, those numbers look especially ominous for Republicans against an energized base of Democratic voters at all levels.

Cupid’s also outraised Boyce with more than $161,000 in campaign contributions, and had more than $80,000 in cash on hand at the end of June, according to her latest financial disclosure report.

Boyce by comparison has raised around $102,000 overall for his re-election bid and had nearly $40,000 on hand shortly after the primary.

“We still need more Republican votes,” said Boyce, an East Cobb resident, “but we can’t do this alone.”

That helps explain why he’s been campaigning a lot in recent weeks in South Cobb, Cupid’s home turf, where she has been the District 4 commissioner since 2013.

After knocking off incumbent chairman Tim Lee in the 2016 GOP runoff, Boyce didn’t have a Democratic opponent.

But the Democratic surge in Cobb began that November, when Hillary Clinton edged Donald Trump to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the county since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Two years ago Stacey Abrams’ Democratic gubernatorial campaign won in Cobb and several Democrats were swept into office, including Lucy McBath in the 6th Congressional District and Charisse Davis for the Post 6 school board seat in East Cobb.

“What I saw in 2018 in the governor’s race is that there are a lot of Democrats in Cobb County,” Boyce said. “Democrats have done a better job of developing a base and getting out the vote. But I’m not conceding anything.”

Boyce said he’s proud of his record that he said has restored financial stability, increased popular services and begun to improve salary and benefits for public safety employees.

(Here’s Boyce’s campaign website.)

East Cobb News has interviewed Cupid and her profile can be found here.

Boyce defends his 2018 property tax increase, pointing to the commissioners’ vote two years before—on the day he beat Lee in a runoff—to lower the millage rate. He said that resulted in a $30 million deficit before he took office.

The tax hike didn’t sit well in some GOP circles, including the Cobb County Republican Party, which spoke out against it. He’s been called a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by some, but Boyce said in looking out for the interests of citizens countywide, “you have to be based in reality.”

He said the additional revenue boosted the county’s budget contingency, which now stands at around $100 million. Boyce said he heard loud and clear from residents about quality-of-life matters like more parks and longer library hours.

“The people are owed the truth,” he said. “You have to tell them, ‘If this is what you want, then this is what it’s going to cost.’ ”

Boyce maintains that his fiscal practices area in line with his Republican predecessors, but that “people love their amenities.”

In 2019, Cobb public safety employees and their advocates began pressing for better pay and retention policies, and commissioners responded with a step-and-grade system that includes regular salary increases for qualified workers.

Cupid was his strongest backer for the tax increase, which he said enabled the public safety step-and-grade to be implemented. She also served as Boyce’s vice chair for two of the four years he’s been in office.

Lately, however, he’s been campaigning Austell and South Cobb, a Democratic stronghold where Cupid had no opposition in the 2016 primary or general election.

“You have to see what I’ve been seeing,” Boyce said, explaining his reasons for making a concerted presence there.

“She’s had no competition. What I’m hearing is that they don’t know who she is.”

Of his campaign funding differences with Cupid, Boyce said he’s raised more than $10,000 in July and maintains that “we have exactly the amount of money we need to run the kind of campaign we need to have.”

Boyce said he’s pressing what’s essentially a non-partisan message, to reach “those who will hear what you’re saying and doing. They’re willing to cross party lines.

“This time you have to go for the November voter,” he said. “A lot of them know me but we’re giving them my record. We’ve responded to what the needs of the county have been.”

Unlike 2016, however, he’ll be on a general-election ballot with Trump in a county that’s a clear suburban battleground at the local, state and federal levels.

“I’m a Republican and I believe in loyalties,” Boyce said, deflecting a question about his level of support for the president. “What I focus on every day is, ‘Have I done all I can for Cobb County?’ ”

He said he’s hearing some from citizens about the challenges the county faces in the aftermath of economic fallout from COVID-related lockdowns, but he can’t make any projections now.

“Nobody knows what the impact is going to be,”  Boyce said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but the future has not looked better.”

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