It was a huge comeback for the first-time candidate who trailed Hembree by 24 percentage points in November's general election.
With all precincts reporting Tuesday night in the three-county district, unofficial returns showed Dugan with 3,606 votes, or 55.79 percent, to Hembree’s 2,857 votes, or 44.21 percent. The voter turnout was only 6.9 percent in the district.
Dugan, a Carrollton building contractor and retired military officer, still has one more contest ahead, a Jan. 8 matchup with Libertarian candidate James Camp of Temple. The winner of that race will get the seat vacated by Bill Hamrick of Carrollton, who resigned in September to accept a Superior Court judgeship.
“I’m humbled and proud,” Dugan said. “I’m not surprised that we won, but I am surprised with how well we did and I’m thankful for that. I’m going to take tomorrow off, with Christmas coming, and catch up on a bunch of ‘honey do’s,’ then I’m going to start getting ready for Jan. 8. Anybody who thinks this race is done is just kidding themselves.”
It was a disappointing loss for Hembree, who came within 2 percentage points of winning the race outright in the Nov. 6 voting. He had 48.4 percent of the vote then, while Dugan got only 24.3 percent to win a spot on the runoff ballot. But more than 70 percent of the voters turned out then, with the presidential race and several state and local contests on the ballot.
“I did the best I could in getting my message out,” Hembree said Tuesday night. “I guess I’m frustrated with the turnout, and because of the Georgia runoff law, the election was determined by 6 percent of the voters. I want to thank the people who voted for me and I’m grateful for their votes. I just called Mike about 30 minutes ago and congratulated him on his victory. We ran the best campaign we knew how to run to stay positive.”
In Carroll County, Dugan won by a large margin, taking 25 of the 26 precincts.
The Carroll County totals were 3,049 votes for Dugan, or 75.73 percent, to Hembree with 977 votes, or 24.27 percent. Voter turnout was 7.7 percent.
Hembree, a Winston insurance agent and former state House member, won convincingly in Douglas and Paulding counties, but the vote totals there weren’t enough to overcome the larger Carroll County vote, where more than 50 percent of the District 30 voters live.
In Douglas County, Hembree had 1,526 votes, or 80.57 percent, to Dugan’s 368 votes, or 19.43 percent, where voter turnout was 9.1 percent.
In Paulding County, Hembree had 354 votes, or 65.19 percent, to Dugan’s 189 votes, or 34.81 percent. Voter turnout was 2.6 percent.
Camp, an information technologist, who will face Dugan on the Jan. 8 ballot, attended the vote counting session Tuesday night at the Carroll County elections office.
“I’m just going to keep focusing on getting my message out there,” Camp said. “I’m also letting voters know that the possibility of a single party super majority in the Senate is coming down to this seat. With a super majority, the will of the people is removed and is replaced by the will of the party establishment and I can help stop that. I think we have two of the best candidates in the race, and regardless of who wins, it’s a brand new start, with brand new ideas and I’m excited about that.”
Carroll County Elections Supervisor Becky Deese noted that the Jan. 8 election will follow a holiday and voter turnout is likely to again be low.
“I would have liked to have seen more voters today, but I appreciate those who did come out and vote,” Deese said. “I want to remind them to come out again on Jan. 8.”