Richardson, Hembree and Carrollton residents Michael Dugan and James Naughton qualified by the noon deadline for the open District 30 Senate seat representing parts of Douglas, Paulding and Carroll counties.
Richardson was elected in 1996 as the first Republican since Reconstruction to represent Paulding County in the Legislature. He served seven terms in the State House and was elected in 2005 as the first Republican Speaker of the Georgia House in 130 years. However, he resigned his speakership and House seat before the 2010 session amid a scandal involving an alleged inappropriate relationship with a female lobbyist.
The Hiram resident said he planned to emphasize such issues as the need for conservative spending, a wider variety of educational opportunities, and ways to provide transportation projects without a regional approach.
He said he did not want to comment on the other candidates in the race.
“I believe I’m the most qualified person to serve in the Senate seat from west Georgia,” he said. “I think my experience bears it out.”
He said the difference between seeking re-election to his old House seat in 2008 and this election is, “I’m different. I have a different heart.”
“I have a perspective from my own personal failures … to help people in need,” he said.
Hembree, 46, a Winston resident, served a total of nine terms in the House. He withdrew from the race for his House District 67 seat last week to seek the vacant Senate seat.
He has served as chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee and Higher Education and Industrial Relations committees. He lost a 2010 election to David Ralston for the chance to succeed Richardson as Speaker of the House.
He said he plans to “focus on the issues important to the people of west Georgia,” including the need for jobs, cuts in state spending and lower taxes.
Hembree said he believes he sizes up well against his opponents for the Senate seat.
“I think I have a good opportunity to represent the people of west Georgia in the state Senate,” he said.
He said he regards his opponents, which include former House colleague Richardson, “as I would any other opponent.”
“The way I’ve always run my campaign [is] telling people what I will do,” he said.
Dugan, 49, is a 20-year Army veteran and director of support services for Carrollton general contractor RA-LIN and Associates.
“My areas of focus are job creation, education and health care,” Dugan said in a prepared statement. “I believe in a clear and defined break in responsibilities between the federal and state governments.”
“I first thought about running for office while I was still serving in the military. 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.”
Dugan’s wife Missy is the president and chief executive officer for Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta.
Efforts to reach Naughton for comment following the close of qualifying today were unsuccessful.
The seat was left vacant when Bill Hamrick, who was unopposed for the Republican nomination in the July 31 primary, was appointed to a Coweta Judicial District Superior Court judgeship Sept. 10.
The Republican special Primary Election is set for Nov. 6, with a runoff, if needed, on Dec. 4.
The winner Nov. 6 will face independent candidate James Camp of Temple in a special general election Jan. 8.