In a scenario that surely makes Georgia politicians of both parties nervous and political reporters gleeful, Andrew Hunt, grandson of legendary billionaire H.L. Hunt and Libertarian nominee for governor of Georgia, may be poised to force a runoff election after November between Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Democratic State Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of Jimmy Carter.
A just-completed Insider Advantage poll shows Deal edging Carter by a margin of 44 percent to 40 percent, with Hunt — who is included for one of the first times in any survey of the race — drawing 7 percent of the vote. Under Peach State election law, if no candidate for governor wins 50 percent of the vote plus one, a runoff must be held between the two top vote-getters on Dec. 2.
"And you can imagine how candidates dread the thought of campaigning when it may be snowing here!" veteran Atlanta public relations man Phil Kent told Newsmax. "But you can also imagine how national political reporters will flock here because after November, Georgia and Louisiana [which is likely to host a runoff in its U.S. Senate race] are the only games to watch."
Hunt, 53, completed a doctorate program at Georgia Tech in three years and is now a nanotechnologist. Although libertarians have been nominating candidates for years (and actually did well enough to force a runoff for U.S. senator in 1992), Hunt has raised eyebrows recently by becoming the first libertarian to run a TV commercial.
"There have been some pretty hard-edged libertarians over the years," Hunt recently told veteran Atlanta political columnist Jim Galloway. "I'm really spreading the scope of people who call themselves libertarian."
The Georgian takes traditional libertarian positions, such as favoring same-sex marriage and ending what he calls "special-interest deals." But Hunt is also offering fresh ideas that are rare for libertarians, such as a state-financed plan to reimburse employers for a federal payroll tax on every employee hired who is paid over $11 an hour.
Georgia's modern history of electing Republicans and his own conservative governance aside, Deal has never reached 50 percent in any poll. Most state political observers credit lingering disappointment with his handling of a major snowstorm earlier this year as the major reason for the 72-year-old governor's vulnerability.
The oldest of the 11 grandchildren of Jimmy and Rosslyn Carter, Jason Carter, 39, is more Bill Clinton than he is his grandfather. Running as a centrist and reformer, he takes some conservative positions. Last year, when Jimmy Carter called for ending the death penalty nationwide, Jason promptly told reporters, "I love my grandfather," but that he strongly disagreed with him on him on the issue of capital punishment.
Any report on Andrew Hunt inevitably returns to his grandfather. Forty years after his death, Haroldson Lafayette Hunt — long rumored to be the model for malevolent tycoon "J.R. Ewing" on TV's long-running "Dallas" series — remains as intriguing as he was in life. A major risk-taker on the Texas oil fields, he was dubbed one of the eight richest Americans by Fortune magazine in 1957.
He also backed right-of-center causes, ranging from the movement to draft Douglas MacArthur for president in 1952 to abolishing the income tax.
Hunt fathered 15 children by three wives. While married and a father in Texas in the 1920s, he secretly married a woman in Florida named Frania Tye and fathered four children with her. She later had the marriage dissolved, married a Hunt employee named John Lee, and had her children legally take his name. When grandson Andrew was a teenager, he had his name changed to Hunt.
Although libertarian candidates have historically faded in polls as the election draws nearer, national libertarians are clearly excited about Hunt.
"Voters are realizing that both of the two old parties are making things worse," Libertarian Party National Political Director Carla Howell told Newsmax, "and that voting Libertarian is our only hope for dramatically lower taxes and spending, peace, privacy, and freedom."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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