Michael Thurmond is Georgia native, born in Clarke County. He was the youngest of nine children and grew up attending segregated schools. He graduated from Clarke Senior High School in 1971, where he served as co-president of the student council and held the record for the one hundred yard dash.
Thurmond attended Paine College in Augusta where he majored in philosophy and religion. He also earned a juris doctorate from the University of South Carolina. In 1978, he published A Story Untold: Black Men and Women in Athens History. After graduating from USC, Thurmond returned to Athens to practice law and, in 1986, became the first black member of the General Assembly from Clarke County since Reconstruction. In 1994, Governor Zell Miller tapped Thurmond to head Georgia’s Work First program. Four years later, he became Georgia’s first state Labor Commissioner, where he is now serving his third term. His tenure as Labor Commissioner saw Georgia’s unemployment offices transition to state-of-the-art career centers.
As Labor Commissioner, Thurmond presided over a 2008 computer glitch in which a GDOL computer issued duplicate unemployment checks worth approximately $12 million. Most of the money has since been recovered and there is no evidence or suggestion that Thurmond was at fault. The AJC does note, however, that Thurmond has not responded to requests for an interview on the subject after initially promising cooperation.
He is a distinguished lecturer at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson School of Government. Thurmond is on the board of curators of the Georgia Historical Society and chairs the Martin Luther King, Jr. Georgia State Holiday Commission. He has also written two more books: Freedom: An African-American History of Georgia and Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865.
Spending: Thurmond believes that the stimulus was beneficial. He believes that sacrifice and compromise will be needed to attack deficit spending when the recession is over.
Taxes: Thurmond authored a tax cut as a state representative that was worth an estimated $300 million. The legislation, which sent refunds up to $26 to citizens with incomes under $20,000, was recently repealed on the grounds that many of the refunds went to citizens who actually paid no income taxes. Today, Thurmond says that he favors a fairer tax system that will reward achievement and entrepreneurship. He favors extending the Bush tax cuts for middle class.
Jobs: As Labor Commissioner, Thurmond unveiled Georgia Works, a program that puts unemployed workers into jobs for a six week trial period in which the state pays all costs. The employer pays nothing. According to Thurmond’s website and ABC News, 36% of participants are hired within the six weeks and 63% are hired within 90 days.
Health Care: On Obamacare, Thurmond said, “"Let's take a look at what is working and improve on it and change what is not working.” With respect to the constitutionality of the law, he said, “That is for the courts and our judicial system to decide. I do know that we require automobile insurance, and this has not been found unconstitutional."
National Security: A current position on national security and terrorism could not be determined.
Immigration: Thurmond opposes attempts to amend the Constitution to restrict birthright citizenship. “Congress has no authority to enact laws that restrict the effect of birth on the right to American citizenship.”
Energy: Thurmond opposes drilling for oil off the coast of Georgia.
Cap-and-Trade: Thurmond favors an emissions trading plan for greenhouse gases.
Guns: Thurmond supports the use of “smart” technology to prevent the use of guns by unauthorized people. He supports “sensible” gun control.
Education: Thurmond believes that parents should have the option to choose within the public school system and should be offered charter schools.
Life: Thurmond believes that a woman has a right to choose.
Gay Marriage: Thurmond believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, but supports civil unions.
Note: Thurmond’s website will not be very helpful to anyone seeking to learn about his platform. Most of the information on his positions on issues was obtained through an interview he conducted with progressiveblue.com. Many of the positions come from ontheissues.org and are ten years old. Due to lack of current information, I have used this site where necessary. The Thurmond campaign did not respond to requests for information or photos.