Three-term Georgia Commissioner of Labor Michael Thurmond has filed to run for U.S. Senate, and will challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Thurmond is one of the most prominent Black Democrats in the state of Georgia, which increasingly votes Republican.
Before holding his current profession, in which he is in charge of unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of Georgians looking for work, Thurmond was a state lawmaker and head of Georgia’s Department of Family and Children’s Services.
Thurmond was initially expected to run for lieutenant governor but, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was urged to run against Isakson by Democratic Party officials who hope his name will draw African-American voters, who make up half of the Democratic electorate in the state.
According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Thurmond said he is the right candidate for the U.S. senate seat because his career has prepared him to combat the country’s biggest struggle at the moment: unemployment.
“This recession has changed me, and it has changed my philosophy of public service,” the Athens native told the Banner-Herald. “I’ve come to the period in my political career where I know we need to focus not on the next election but on the next generation.”
At an April 21 event to announce his candidacy, Thurmond recalled growing up in poverty and said he did not live in a house with indoor plumbing until he was in his teens.
“Through faith and hard work all things are possible,” Thurmond said, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The only other Democrat that has announced their candidacy for the seat is R.J. Hadley, a former Rockdale County employee who has never held elected office.
According to the Journal-Constitution, Thurmond faces an uphill battle against Isakson, who has been campaigning for more than a year, has raised $7 million, and expected to have $5 million on hand at the end of April.