McDONOUGH, Ga. – Democrat Mike Thurmond is challenging Georgia’s Republican Senator Johnny Isakson. With Isakson’s incumbency edge, and a $5 million campaign war chest, it’s been an uphill battle for the state’s labor commissioner.
Thurmond agreed to answer our questions about his qualifications, expectations, and prospects for the November 2 election.
What specific elements of your past work experience do you think will be most beneficial to you as a senator?
Lessons I learned from my childhood and accomplishments as a public servant will help me make the best decisions for Georgia as U.S. Senator AND keep me humble.
I grew up the son of a sharecropper and the youngest of eight brothers and sisters in a rural section of Clarke County, Georgia known as Sandy Creek. At a very early age, the importance of education, hard work and public service were impressed on me. My father, Sidney who only had a 2nd grade education, taught me that perseverance and hard work will take you a long way in life. As the Bible says, “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance hope and hope does not disappoint.”
In my public service career, I was fortunate to work as director of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services and for the past 12 years as the Commissioner of Labor.
As DFACS director, I was able to move over 100,000 people off welfare to work with innovative programs like the Georgia Fatherhood initiative.
As Labor Commissioner, I have worked hard to put Georgians back to work. Facing the worst economy since the Great Depression with unemployment above 10 percent, I started a new program called “Georgia Works.” This innovative program matches employers, at no cost to them, with trained and ready workers. Since it began seven years ago, nearly 8,000 people have completed the program, with about 60 percent finding full-time work afterward.
Do you believe a Democrat can win in November in Georgia and why?
Certainly. The people of Georgia know it will be difficult if not impossible to make the tough decisions that must be made unless we replace those who, today, stubbornly cling to the status quo, even when it is clear that in order for America to maintain its preeminent position in the world we must embrace new leadership, new ideas and a new direction.
This is the only way that we are going to solve the economic problems we face.
What do you foresee as the biggest issue the Senate will be dealing with and what will you bring to the table in terms of working towards a solution?
Creating jobs and getting America back to work are the biggest issues we face in Georgia and America.
We’ve got to find ways to get the 15 million Americans back to meaningful, productive and well-paying work. Without good jobs and income, there is no consumer spending and we can’t generate the money to pay for the services we need. As the nation begins to recover economically, we must take bold action to ensure such a crisis never happens again. That means fighting to create new jobs and spur economic growth. It means creating a fairer tax system that rewards achievement and entrepreneurship.
It means investing in infrastructure and in good, new private sector jobs. It means focusing education and training on worker preparation for occupations that are in demand. And it means putting an end to fiscal irresponsibility, reducing and eliminating the federal deficit and returning our country to the fiscal discipline that generated record budget surpluses and a rising standard of living just a few short years ago.