Advance voting begins today in Round 2 of the District 30 Senate runoff. Voters can cast early ballots each day, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., through Friday, at the county election office at 423 College St. in Carrollton. No Saturday advance voting will be held.
Hembree, of Winston and a veteran of the Georgia House, led decisively in the Nov. 6 general election, finishing with 48.4 percent of the vote, but falling short of the required 50 percent plus one vote to win outright in the four-candidate field. That allowed Dugan, who was second with 24.3 percent, to continue the race, and he’s confident he can make up ground in the runoff.
“You can take what you got from the first election and throw it out the window,” said Dugan, a Carrollton resident in his first political campaign. “It’s zero to zero now.”
The Republican who wins the Dec. 4 runoff will face Libertarian James Camp on Jan. 8.
The seat became vacant when Bill Hamrick resigned in September to accept a Superior Court judgeship.
Both Hembree and Dugan are expected to speak at the Dec. 1 county Republican meeting at Sunnyside Cafe in Carrollton, likely their last joint appearance before the election.
On the campaign trail, Hembree is emphasizing his years of experience as a legislator and his conservative background, while Dugan is running as a new face, with a new approach to the problems facing the state.
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 enter the state Senate race.
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.
Hembree was strong in the early voting phase of the general election when he received more votes than he did on Election Day.
“We feel confident in the fact that we had over 15,000 people who voted early for us, and that was more than all the other candidates combined,” said.
“I would hope that people who vote for you vote for a reason, because your message appealed to them, and my hope is that that appeal is still there in all three counties.”
District 30 comprises portions of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties.
Dugan acknowledges the early voting numbers of the general election, but believes name recognition played a large role in the disparity.
“You have 70 percent registered voters who went out last time,” he said. “A lot voted early and voted based on name recognition. Early voting started soon after everybody declared. I took a pounding in early voting, but this is a different race now.
“If anything, I’m extremely optimistic about our chances. On the day that everybody declared, he had 40 percent name recognition. I went from 4 percent name recognition to 25 percent of the votes gotten.”
Hembree said that a big issue his team has faced during the runoff campaign is explaining to supporters that he didn’t win outright on Nov. 6 and why.
“I tell people that I thank them for supporting me in the first round, and there’s a round two here, and that’s a big issue,” he said. “People who I come in contact with thought I had won.
“This has really been the biggest issue we’ve faced, is telling our supporters that even though on election night they saw we had an overwhelming advantage, thank you for voting for us, but please, please show up again and help us out again.”
Voters who were 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.
She 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.
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.