Overcoming odds has been a recurring theme in the political life of Georgia’s U.S. Senate candidate, Michael Thurmond.
As an African-American Democrat running for the state’s open Senate seat, Thurmond faces Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson. Since 2005, Isakson has served in his current role. Georgia’s other top leaders, including U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss the Governor Sonny Perdue are also a members of the GOP.
When considering candidates, Thurmond urges Georgia voters to look at his track record of statewide office, the roles he played, and his experience in state-level leadership since 1987.
Thurmond currently serves as Georgia’s Labor Commissioner, and has done so since 1999. He was the first African-American elected to statewide office without prior appointment to the post. Before that, he was the director of the state’s Division of Family and Children Services. He also served in the Georgia House of Representatives.
As Labor Commissioner, Thurmond has presided over some of the best and most difficult labor markets in the Georgia’s history. The state has seen record unemployment, led by metro Atlanta, the state’s long-held economic engine. Unemployment in Georgia now hovers at an even 10 percent.
In response to the employment figures, Thurmond has created programs such as Georgia Work$. The statewide initiative allows those receiving state unemployment benefits to be paired with potential employers for a six-week trial period paid for by the state. The goal is to get employers to hire candidates after that time. It allows workers to “create positions” that can put them back to work faster than traditional job searches.
Despite his experience and accomplishments, polls show that the Senate race is still tipping toward Republicans. Presidential hopeful John McCain carried the state over President Barack Obama by five percentage points in the 2008 general election.
“Polls are irrelevant. As everyone knows, the only poll that counts is the election on Nov. 2,” Thurmond told his hometown newspaper, the Athens Banner-Herald, in a recent interview.
Thurmond may technically have a point, as the ballots cast are the only ones that count. However, recent polling from Rasmussen shows Isakson with a 53 to 38 percent lead over Thurmond.
“(My) track record and my understanding of the needs of our citizens will determine the final outcome on Nov. 2, not someone’s campaign bankroll or some outside polling firm,” Thurmond added in his interview with the Banner-Herald.
With that said, Thurmond intends to earn every vote until the final ballots are counted in early November.