The time has come for you to meet Andrew Hunt, nanotechnologist and Libertarian, who has a decent chance of throwing Georgia’s race for governor into extra innings.
The first thing to know about him may be the least important, but given this year’s emphasis on family lineage, what with a presidential grandson and senatorial daughter in the mix — well, it fits a trend.
He doesn’t volunteer the information, but when asked directly, Andrew Hunt, 53, will tell you he is the grandson of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, once one of the richest men in the world, and a famous financial backer of the American anti-Communist movement in ‘50s and ‘60s.
H.L. Hunt, who died in 1974, is said to have been the model for J.R. Ewing, the central, Machiavellian character in the “Dallas” TV series. But the real-life billionaire lived a soap-opera life that might have made Larry Hagman blush – siring three separate families by three women.
Andrew Hunt’s branch was the one left out of the will – save for a modest $7.5 million settlement, according to a 2008 Vanity Fair article. Nonetheless, when Andrew Lee was a teenager, he went to court and legally changed his last name to match that of his grandfather.
“He claimed to have had a genius gene. I might have inherited that,” said Andrew Hunt, owner of a non-stop smile and a doctorate from Georgia Tech – which he said he earned in three years rather than the usual four.
Hunt the gubernatorial candidate is a Libertarian with soft edges, not an Ayn Rand absolutist.
“I’m really spreading the scope of people willing to call themselves libertarian. I’m a very religious, Christian guy,” Hunt said in an interview, amid the clatter of the OK Café. “I believe in caring for people, and for doing what’s right for people. There have been some pretty hard-edged libertarians over the years.”
Ask him specifically what he wants to do as governor, and Hunt talks of ending “special interest deals” – those two new professional sports stadiums, and tax breaks that state recruiters dangle in front of big corporations.
“Our small towns are drying up across Georgia. It’s terrible. And they don’t get any incentives. In fact, they’re paying into the coffers to support these big organizations. That is wrong,” Hunt said.
He wants to initiate a state-financed plan to reimburse employers for a federal payroll tax on every hire paid over $11 an hour. He expects it might cost as much as $4 billion.
“I don’t believe in adjusting the minimum wage rate, but I don’t want to incentivize low-paying jobs,” Hunt said. “I don’t like it when people get paid less than a certain amount – because that’s what creates social welfare needs.”
Hunt favors medical marijuana but not legalization of the street stuff. “I don’t want Colorado, where people are putting out enticing things to eat with marijuana in them. I don’t see that as a benefit to society,” he said.
He’s willing to stand pat on Georgia’s new gun law. And gay marriage, Hunt thinks, is a fait accompli. “There’s nothing Georgia needs to do. Gay marriage is going to be allowed soon, because the courts – just as they have in all the other states – will overturn it. So no action will be required,” he said.
Several other Libertarians will be on the November ballot, including U.S. Senate candidate Amanda Swafford. But the Senate race has no incumbent, and is likely to devolve into a multi-million dollar, ideological struggle over Republican or Democratic control of the chamber.
The race for governor will also be expensive. The difference is Republican incumbent Nathan Deal, who has consistently polled below 50 percent. Moreover, presidential grandsire Jason Carter has the cash and aggressiveness to make himself competitive.
Which means every percentage point gathered up by Hunt could matter.
Hunt would prefer to make the runoff. If not that, he would like to achieve 20 percent of the vote, to give Libertarians automatic standing on state ballots. But he concedes that a Dec. 2 runoff without him – one that would be held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Day — “is the highest probability outcome.”
(Georgia Democrats, incidentally, don’t have a very good performance record when it comes to turning out tryptophan-sated voters on short notice. Republicans do.)
This fall, Hunt will be on the stage in three televised debates with Carter and Deal. To force a runoff, the Libertarian will likely have to target disaffected Republicans. Hunt has talked to David Pennington, the former Dalton mayor who drew 17 percent of the vote against Deal in a GOP primary. School Superintendent John Barge received 11 percent.
Pennington said Hunt comes off as a nice enough guy. “I’m waiting for him to come out and say what he stands for – on the state income tax, on tort reform. He hasn’t said any of that – I’m waiting for specifics,” Pennington said.
Hunt will also have to come up with some more campaign cash. He had raised only $22,750 as of June 30. But fortunately, the grandson of H.L. Hunt has some distant relatives he might be able to tap.
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