“This is a job interview,” Dugan said. “I’m asking voters to hire me to be their voice in Atlanta. If you hire an employee and send him out to a remote site, you expect him to come back and tell you what he’s been doing. That’s what a town hall meeting is to me. I’d be coming to the home office and telling my constituents what I’ve been doing and answer their questions.”
He said the town hall meetings would be held once a month and the locations would move around the district.
Dugan is running for the Senate seat against Republicans Jim Naughton of Carrollton, Bill Hembree of Douglas County and Glenn Richardson of Paulding County. The seat was vacated in September when Bill Hamrick resigned to accept a Superior Court judgeship.
Dugan is a Carrollton businessman, a retired military officer and a first-time political candidate. He doesn’t like the label “politician,” but he understands he’s up against seasoned politicians who have lots of legislative experience.
“I think that’s part of the problem,” he said. “They’re in the network up there and they’ve lost focus on why they’re there. Our senator is supposed to represent the people. He’s not supposed to be focused on his own personal ambitions, hoping to get selected for certain committees or wondering where his office will be located.”
Dugan has also called for a 10-year term limit on the state Senate job. He said he came up with 10 years since that’s the limit a president can serve in office.
“I’m going to push for term limits if elected,” he said. “I know the established political group doesn’t want this because there’s a whole lot of perks that go along with being a long-time elected official.”
Dugan downplayed the contention that political office holders already have limits since the voter only has to vote them out.
“It’s an unbalanced playing field,” he said. “Look at the amount of contributions that come in to established politicians from people who aren’t in this district. It’s hard for anybody who’s not an incumbent, because the incumbents have so many resources available to them.”
Dugan is also campaigning for ethics reforms and said he’ll seek a $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists.
“I’m saying a $100 total cap for all gifts, not $100 for this meal and another $100 for that meal,” he said.
He said lobbyists can provide valuable information about their industries, but it’s the role of an office holder to accept the information, but not any gifts with it.
“My job will be to go through all the information, from all sides,” he said. “I’ll be smart enough to formulate my own decision, based on all the information.”
Speaking on the economy and job creation, Dugan sees his role as a senator as a cheerleader, a point man, to bring together mayors, commissioners, city council members and chambers with industrial prospects.
He said something needs to be done about over-regulation which he said makes it difficult for businesses to operate.
“We don’t want to go back to the late 1800s, with child labor and working 80 hours a week,” Dugan said, “but we have to take a common-sense approach on regulations.”
He said it’s well-meaning people who pass all the regulations, but they often don’t put enough forethought into them.
“I’m not for passing more laws,” he said. “I’m for streamlining the ones we have, cleaning them up and making them more efficient and using common sense.”
On education, Dugan said he believes all the candidates in the race agree that helping students and improving success rates is important. He called for looking at various educational alternatives that match the education with the needs of the students.
“I’m not a believer that every kid ought to or want to go to a traditional four-year university,” he said. “Not all necessarily need to go to a technical college. We shouldn’t try to put a round peg in a square hole. A student is going to excel by doing something he loves, and if he loves technical training, we should promote that. Others may want to go through a traditional system and we should encourage and promote that.”
Dugan called for education that ensures that students are reading on a third grade level by the end of the third grade.
“Not developing a strong ability to read directly impacts a student’s probability of finishing high school,” he said, “and that they may end up being a ward of the state.”
While he favors the Hope scholarship, Dugan said he’s not in favor of bringing casinos to Georgia to raise money for education.
“I’d hate to see a bunch of casinos across the state,” he said. “Anytime you have a town where the slogan is ‘what happens here, stays here,’ that sounds a little dubious to start with.”
However, he said he would listen to proposals for thoroughbred horse racing.
“Horse racing I wouldn’t rule out,” he said. “There would have to be some constraints on it, but I’m not one who would say ‘no.’”
Dugan believes in different types of punishment to fit crimes and not putting people in jail for things such as drug addiction. He cited one program called “Back on My Feet,” which uses running as a way to help people overcome addictions.
“There’s other ways to handle these things instead of ‘one crime fits all’ mentality,” he said. “When I was at the Ranger battalion in Florida, we had a white collar prison, for crimes like embezzling. Those guys were down there and they weren’t a threat to anybody. They have to pay for their crimes, but you don’t treat them the same as murderers.”
Dugan, 49, is the son of two educators. His father was a professor at University of West Georgia and his mother an elementary school teacher.
He graduated from Bowdon High School, where he played football and ran track. He attended the University of West Georgia and earned a bachelor’s degree in history. He later earned a master’s degree in organizational development from UWG.
Dugan enlisted in the U.S. Army after college graduation and became an Army Ranger. During his career, he was deployed to more than 32 countries, including Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired as a lieutenant colonel after 20 years service.
“I first thought about running for office while I was still serving in the military,” he said. “I’ve spoken with many people who have lost faith in our political system’s ability to get important things done. Our elected officials have become more politicians and less public servants and they’ve lost focus on why we had selected them to represent us.”
He currently works as director of support services for RA-LIN and Associates, a Carrollton general contractor.
Dugan has been married to his wife, Missy, for 25 years. She is currently the president and chief executive officer for Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, overseeing 24 clubs in 10 counties. They have two children. Daughter Meghan is a junior at Auburn University, majoring in political science, and working toward law school. Son Beau is a sophomore at the University of West Georgia, majoring in business and on the football team.