ATLANTA --- The three men running for the U.S. Senate have all campaigned statewide before, but a surge of new voters means they might still be little known to much of this year's electorate.
Incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss, Democrat Jim Martin and Libertarian Allen Buckley are all lawyers, middle-aged white men and political veterans. Mr. Chambliss and Mr. Martin were fraternity brothers at the University of Georgia.
Mr. Martin served in the military during the Vietnam War in the judicial corps. Mr. Buckley grew up in the era of the all-volunteer military.
Recent polls indicate that the election could be close despite advantages Mr. Chambliss should enjoy as an incumbent Republican in a "red state."
Since every vote could be critical, the candidates' backgrounds and general philosophy are likely to be held under closer scrutiny.
Born: Berea, Ohio
Home: Smyrna, Ga.
Education: LLM, University of Florida, 1989. JD, University of Georgia, 1985, BA, Kent State University, 1982.
Occupation: Lawyer, certified public accountant specializing in taxation
Employer: Smith Moore Leatherwood
Political experience: Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate 2004 and for lieutenant governor in 2006
Community service: Member, Atlanta Tax Forum, 2000-present; member, Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants, 1996-present; member, State Bar of Georgia, 1985-present
Top three issues: Federal spending, reducing U.S. involvement in foreign countries, immigration
Libertarians typically garner such a small share of the vote -- 2 to 4 percent -- that they usually don't have much impact on the outcome. This year may be different with the well-known Bob Barr, a former Georgia GOP congressman, as the party's presidential nominee, a general frustration with incumbents over the price of gasoline and the financial crisis, and a flood of new voters drawn to support Barack Obama.
After running for the Senate in 2004 and lieutenant governor two years ago, Mr. Buckley starts as the best known Libertarian besides Mr. Barr even if he's not flashy. He's low-key but intense about policy matters, drawing on his professional experience as both an accountant an a lawyer.
Where Libertarian candidates of the past may have stressed lifestyle matters, Mr. Buckley focuses on economic issues.
Mr. Buckley's positions are built on party philosophy with little apparent effort to curry votes.
For example, he rejects Democrat Jim Martin's ideas about universal health or any suggestion that health care is a legal right.
"If you're not going to give them food and shelter, then why should you give them health care?" Mr. Buckley asked.
He favors allowing offshore drilling for oil if the environment won't be harmed and a combination of tax incentives and financial rewards for the development of cleaner energy with higher taxes for dirtier fuels.
Education: AB, 1967, JD, 1969, LLM, 1972 University of Georgia, Athens; MBA, 1980, Georgia State University, Atlanta
Employer: Solo practice
Political experience: 1983-2001, Georgia House of Representatives; 2006 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor
Community service: Vietnam veteran, legal-aid attorney, former Georgia commissioner of human resources
Top three issues: Economic strength/jobs/gas prices, Iraq war, health care
Mr. Martin had repeatedly won re-election to a seat from Atlanta in the Georgia House of Representatives when then-Gov. Roy Barnes named his fellow Democrat commissioner to the troubled Department of Human Resources. After Republican Sonny Perdue defeated Mr. Barnes, he kept Mr. Martin.
During 18 years in the Legislature, Mr. Martin rose to become chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee that reviewed legislation dealing with crime and courts. He championed consumer issues and women's rights and earned a reputation as one of the House liberals.
Two years ago, he survived a bruising primary and runoff to become the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. He came up short against Casey Cagle in a year when Democrats in other states were enjoying a surge.
This year, Mr. Martin came out on top to win his party's Senate nomination. Though opponents describe him as a "nice guy," he has been attacking Mr. Chambliss since the night of the runoff in press conferences and TV ads, linking the senator with President Bush.
Mr. Martin takes a populist approach to many issues, such as supporting universal health care, a tax cut for most Americans and the federal guarantee of individual mortgages rather than a $700 billion bailout of the markets.
He supports an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, saying the resources are needed at home.
Born: Warrenton, N.C.
Home: Moultrie, Ga.
Education: JD, University of Tennessee College of Law, 1968; BA, Business Administration, University of Georgia, 1966; attended Louisiana Tech University, 1961-62 Occupation: Senator
Political experience: U.S. Senate, 2002-present; U.S. House of Representatives, 1994-2002;
Community service: Colquitt County Economic Development Authority, Georgia State Bar Disciplinary Review Panel, Leadership Georgia, Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce; Moultrie-Colquitt County Economic Development Authority, Youth Sports Coach, Young Men's Christian Association
Top three issues: Financial crisis, gasoline prices, national security/terrorism/veterans affairs
As a lawyer in the southwest Georgia city of Moultrie, Mr. Chambliss comes from an economy that revolves around agriculture. Serving eight years in the U.S. House and later in the Senate, he has continued to focus on farm-related issues, even chairing the Agriculture Committee, the only senator since 1947 to head a full standing committee with just two years' service.
National security, veterans and agriculture have been the subject of most of the bills he has authored or co-sponsored. He has generally worked in tandem with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., on nearly every major issue, usually releasing joint statements, a practice few other senators follow.
During the most recent round of military base closure and realignment in 2005, four of Georgia's 13 installations were slated for closure, including the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens. At the same time, Fort Stewart, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon received news that more troops and duties would be transferred to them. Mr. Chambliss said he tried to keep bases open but was criticized for not succeeding.
This year, he has been at the center of a bipartisan effort in the Senate to find a compromise to overcome objections to allowing offshore oil exploration. He drew jeers from conservatives and members of his own party for the tax increases in the original plan and for removing an issue that GOP presidential nominee John McCain was gaining momentum with by blaming Democrats.