The runoff ballot includes former state Rep. Bill Hembree of Winston, who missed winning outright by less than 2 percentage points in the Nov. 6 election when he received 48.4 percent of the vote. He faces Carrollton building contractor Mike Dugan, who got 24.3 percent of the vote.
Hembree led the four-candidate field in all three counties of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding, which comprise District 30. He led Carroll with 12,173 votes, topping two Carroll County candidates — Dugan, with 9,703 votes, and business consultant Jim Naughton, who had 5,091 votes. Former Georgia Secretary of State Glenn Richardson of Hiram finished a distant fourth in Carroll County with 3,627 votes.
In the total district vote, Hembree got 27,565 votes; Dugan, 13,843; Richardson, 8,467; and Naughton, 7,043.
Hembree believes the upcoming advance voting will be important to his chances of winning — he said his campaign determined that he received roughly 15,000 votes during the general election’s early voting cycle. That would account for more votes than he received on Election Day.
“We received more in advance voting than we did on election day,” Hembree said. “With 15,000 voting for me early, if we can get that same type of commitment we feel like that is a real positive step for us.”
Hembree, 46, a Douglas County insurance agent, served 18 years as a Republican member of the Georgia House of Representatives, chairing higher education, rules and industrial relations committees. On Sept. 6, he resigned from the House to run in the state Senate race.
Despite his strong showing in the general election, Hembree said he’s taking nothing for granted and is campaigning daily. He said that on Saturday he had breakfast in Paulding County, lunch in Carroll County and dinner in Douglasville while campaigning in all three counties.
“We’re working each day, we’re going to push each day until the final hour, even though the trend looked good for us.”
Dugan, 49, is making his first run for public office. He is emphasizing his military and business experience as training for the Legislature. He has pledged to hold regular town hall meetings, if elected, and to work for term limits. He said it’s time for new ideas and new leadership.
“It’s all day, every day for me, from now until the runoff,” he said of campaigning. “Part of being the underdog is that you can’t take a day off.”
Dugan said Saturday, a day he spent campaigning, that despite the totals on Nov. 6, it’s “nothing to nothing” now.
“Until the first vote is counted, its zero percent to zero percent,” he said. “I may be naive but I think it’s wide open.”
Neither can Hembree, said Todd Rehm of GaPundit.com, which tracks Georgia politics and elections. Rehm cited numerous examples of candidates who trailed in general election voting only to win a runoff, including Mike Crane’s win over Duke Blackburn in the November 2011 Senate District 28 race.
“I could go on all day with examples,” said Rehm. “That said, Bill Hembree still has to be considered the leader in the runoff for SD 30. Hembree’s experience and ability to fundraise, along with the fact that Hembree carried Carroll County, make it his race to lose. But if there’s a lesson for candidates who come in first in November elections and head for a runoff it’s that they can’t afford to take anything for granted and Bill Hembree should be doing everything possible to ensure his victory.
“And remember, there’s yet another election in January.”
“You’ve heard me say it a hundred times before,” Dugan said. “It’s a job interview, the world’s longest job interview, trying to convince people out there you’re the right person to hire.
The primary runoff winner will go against Libertarian candidate James Camp in the Jan. 8 special election. The winner of that race will fill the seat vacated by Bill Hamrick, who resigned to accept a Superior Court judgeship.
Any voter who was registered by Oct. 9 can vote in the runoff, regardless of whether they voted in the Nov. 6 election, said Carroll County Elections Supervisor Becky Deese.
Fairfield, Hulett, Lowell and Whitesburg precincts are not part of Senate District 30 and will not be participating in the runoff, or the Jan. 8 special election.
Deese said the elections office is now accepting applications for mail ballots for the Dec. 4 runoff and the ballots will be mailed as soon as they are received from the printer.
Deese said there is still time for potential voters who want to cast ballots in the Jan. 8 election to register. They have through Dec. 10 to register.