But, Todd Rehm said, a strong showing by one of the Carroll County candidates could force the race into a runoff, “where anything can happen.”
“I think, realistically, you have to consider Hembree and (former House Speaker Glenn) Richardson to be the major candidates,” said Rehm, who publishes the GaPundit.com political column. “Hembree has a solid career in the state House and is widely thought of very well. Richardson has his supporters and detractors.”
Hembree resigned his House seat this month to campaign for the Senate seat.
An early District 30 poll conducted by GaPundit.com, before Carrollton candidates Mike Dugan and James Naughton announced their intentions to run, showed Hembree with 36 percent of the vote, compared with 13 percent for Richardson, with 38 percent undecided. Libertarian candidate James Camp polled at 12 percent, although he will not be in the Nov. 6 Republican primary, but will face the winner of that contest in a Jan. 8 special general election.
“What jumped out at me from the poll was that Hembree has good support,” Rehm said. “It’s not a majority, but a commanding plurality. He has a lot he can brag about accomplishing and he’s not going to have a downside that Richardson has. Unless something shakes up the race in a major way, I’d expect Hembree to win. The question is whether the race has to go through a runoff. There’s a good chance of a runoff and then it’s really a jump ball. Anything can happen in a runoff.”
He said most voters are aware of Richardson’s negatives — his alleged affair, divorce and attempted suicide while in office as House speaker.
“I wouldn’t expect Hembree to bring it up,” Rehm said. “It’s his race to win or lose. I think Hembree has a fairly comfortable path to 50 percent without having to go there.”
Rehm noted that 55 percent of the district’s electorate live in Carroll County. But, he said, neither of the Carroll candidates are “real politicians.”
“One of the candidates from Carrollton could make himself a major candidate, but I haven’t seen it yet,” he said.
However, he noted that the strange nature of this race’s selection process, with a Nov. 6 special Republican primary, then a possible Dec. 4 runoff and a Jan. 8 special general election, could cause a very low voter turnout.
“The weirder an election gets, the more possibility you get of somebody pulling a Cinderella victory,” he said. “And elections don’t get much weirder than this one.”
He said one scenario could see Camp gathering a coalition of enough Ron Paul Republicans and Libertarians to win the majority in a low-turnout January vote.
“You have the Nov. 6 primary, then a December runoff, and whoever staggers out that has the Jan. 8 general election,” Rehm said. “It’s not likely a Libertarian could win the district, but if you get a damaged enough candidate from the Republican primary, it’s possible. It’s possible, but not likely.
“It would take a lot to change my view that Hembree is heavily favored,” he said.
Senate District 30 includes portions of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties. The Senate seat became vacant when Carrollton Republican Bill Hamrick resigned the seat to accept an appointment as Superior Court judge.