CUMMING, GA. — I first encounter Dog the Bounty Hunter on a Sunday morning between services in a back room at Christ Community Church in Cumming, a town of some 5,000 people about an hour’s drive from Atlanta. His wife and fellow reality TV star is sitting in the corner in a sleeveless dress, and Dog—his real name is Duane Chapman—is pacing the room, a white shirt unbuttoned to the solar plexus, exposing his leathery chest. The couple sports matching, slightly-longer-than-shoulder-length bleach-blond hair.

They’re here to support Michael Williams, a tall, broad-shouldered and clean-cut state senator who has launched a long-shot campaign to become Georgia’s next governor. Williams, a relative unknown, is working to boost his statewide name recognition ahead of next year’s primary. He has already loaned his campaign a million dollars, called a surprise news conference at the Statehouse to lambaste his chief rival and gotten himself condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center for attending a rally against sharia law.