imageThere’s rumbling in the political world that same-sex marriage might be on a short list of hot button issues that surface during a runoff between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin (photo).

The U.S. Senate race in Georgia is all but certain to end in a runoff on Dec. 2. This morning, Republican incumbent Chambliss is more than 16,000 votes short of the 50 percent plus one vote margin he needs to capture a second term. Democrat Martin has 46.8 percent of the vote.

The campaign got brutal at the end as the race tightened thanks to Obama’s coattails providing a lift to Martin, a gay-friendly former state lawmaker. The two candidates provide stark differences on most gay issues, though those never surfaced in a large way during the campaign.

That might change in the runoff, according to a piece by Jim Galloway, the Political Insider columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Most interesting was the hot-button list of items that might erupt in a short campaign:

— Criminal rights activists (Democrat Jim Martin, Chambliss’ runoff rival, is an attorney);

— Politicians acting on self-interest;

— China cheating on trade deals;

— Courts allowing same-sex marriage;

— The “lack of oil exploration” driving up gas costs;

— The $700 billion bailout of Wall Street;

— Pork barrel projects;

— The state of health care;

— And bringing troops home now.

How gay marriage might surface in the campaign is an interesting question. Same-sex unions are illegal in Georgia—made so twice, the last effort coming in 2004 when voters in the state approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Additionally, Martin and Chambliss agree on one at least one thing — neither supports gay marriage.

Beyond gay marriage, though, the candidates don’t agree on much else when it comes to gay issues. Chambliss received a score of 20 (out of a possible 100) on a recent scorecard from the Human Rights Campaign. Martin is credited with stopping anti-gay legislation when he chaired the Judiciary Committee in the state House and drew praise from HIV activists and gay groups during his tenure at the helm of the state Department of Human Resources.

We’ll have to wait and see.

An interesting footnote to the race comes from Southern Voice:

Martin improved upon his results from his campaign for lieutenant governor two years ago. Martin almost doubled the 887,506 votes he received in 2006 when he lost to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle with 42.3 percent of the vote. This year, he garnered 1,721,092 ballots, or 46.7 percent of the vote, compared to Chambliss’ 1,838,903 votes, or 49.9 percent, as of press time Wednesday. Libertarian Allen Buckley took 126,003 votes for 3.4 percent. Georgia law requires a candidate receive 50 percent plus one to be counted the winner.   

It appears that Martin benefited from Obama more than Chambliss benefited from McCain. Chambliss lost almost 200,000 McCain votes, while Martin lost only 82,000 of Obama’s votes. Martin hopes that having a president who agrees with him on many issues will motivate Georgians to come out and vote for him.