If you haven't heard of Col. Oscar Poole, you haven't paid attention to GOP politics in Georgia. With his brightly colored attire and patriotic hats, Poole has turned his Ellijay barbecue emporium into an obligatory campaign stop for Republican office-seekers.
And lately, he's used that megaphone to rally for David Pennington, the former Dalton mayor challenging Gov. Nathan Deal. That is, until today, when he took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper apologizing for that endorsement and announcing support for both Deal and House Speaker David Ralston, who also faces a tea party-backed challenge.
Poole told us he had long waffled on his support for Pennington, but the turning point was a recent rally at his barbecue joint. At that event, Phil Neff, the former chair of a Whitfield County GOP, spoke ill of Ralston's deceased father. Neff later apologized, but Poole said it left a bad taste in his mouth.
"I’ve disassociated myself from right wing extremists," he said. "They’re just as bad as liberal progressives."
Poole didn't rib Pennington but also wouldn't say why he initially backed Pennington, whose campaign said it hasn't yet spoken to the colonel. But he said he long felt like a "traitor" for abandoning Deal, who he considered a friend. Said Poole:
"I can’t divulge all the circumstances, but it was stupid of me. It was foolish. I’m not a stupid man but I did a stupid thing. I never should have endorsed David Pennington. You can't imagine the terrible spot I've been in. I'm supposed to be an honorable man. I feel like the prodigal son. And now I've come to my senses."