Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond suddenly switched gears last week, opting to run for the U.S. Senate instead of Lieutenant Governor. No African American has won a senate seat in a southern state since Reconstruction. There have only been three African American senators in the last hundred years – Edward Brooke, Carolyn Moseley Braun, and Barack Obama – and they have all been elected in Northern states. Will the combination of an opponent possibly weakened by a recent bout of ill health and the massive influx of newly registered voters from the 2008 presidential campaign propel Thurmond to Washington in November?
According to the Florida Times-Union, the newly declared candidate said the No. 1 issue in the country is jobs, and that is something he’s dedicated his career to, making him best qualified.
“This recession has changed me and it has changed my philosophy,” he said. “I’ve come to the point in my political career where I’m focused not on the next election but on the next generation.”
Michael Thurmond, from Jacksonville.com
It is a bold move, but in a state that has trended towards Republicans for statewide office during the last two election cycles, against an opponent who already has several millions in his campaign war chest, what this decision brought to my mind was a line from the movie Enemy Of The State, where Gene Hackman’s character said to Will Smith, who plays a beleaguered labor lawyer in the film, “you’re either incredibly smart, or incredibly stupid.”
Fifty-one percent (51%) of likely voters in the state favor Isakson in a match-up with State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond who earns 35% support. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and eight percent (8%) remain undecided.
A month ago, Isakson posted a 52% to 31% lead over an unnamed generic Democratic candidate. Thurmond just entered the race on Wednesday.
Thurmond has two things going for him – 65 year old Senator Johnny Isakson has been hospitalized twice recently for serious illness, and the voter rolls in Georgia have been swollen by the addition of tens of thousands of registered Democrats from the massive voter registration drive in 2008. I would imagine the Labor Commissioner also understands that he has three things going against him – rural Georgia voters, metropolitan Republicans, and Tea Party activists itching to show their contempt of liberal Democratic candidates.
Will the race for the senate be easier than the race for lieutenant governor? Thurmond seems to think so.
Thurmond said he made his decision to enter the Senate race beneath an oak tree in a Clarke County park where his sharecropping family once had a shack — and an outhouse.
“I used to sit under that oak tree, and dreamed that one day,” Thurmond said, choking up for three beats, “that after three generations of sharecroppers who could not read and write, that one day we would rise above that. That I would rise above that.”
Political Insider Blog by Jim Galloway, Atlanta Journal & Constitution