Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson, who has more acorns stored up in his treasury than any other candidate in Georgia, went up with the first TV ad of the U.S. Senate campaign this morning.
A portion of his message — declaring that his unnamed Democratic opponent, Michael Thurmond, “supports President Obama” – is just a little taste of what Roy Barnes can expect to see in the race for governor.
But most telling in the ad is the phrase he allows suporters to use in describing his work: “He doesn’t stand on the sidelines.”
Isakson is, at bottom, a negotiator willing to attempt compromises. That involves risk. His work – with Georgia colleague Saxby Chambliss – on an immigration bill in 2007 rankled the hard-liners in the Georgia GOP. (Both ultimately denounced the effort.)
Consider this ad an attempt by Isakson to explain himself — particularly to independents.
Actor One: Some in Washington stand on the sidelines.
Actor Two: Not Johnny Isakson.
Actor Three: He’s there every day, fighting for Georgia….
Actor Four: ….our country, and our conservative values.
Actor Five: He fought to stop government health care….
Actor Two: …and the Washington liberals’ energy tax. He opposed the stimulus package….
Actor Six: ….Supports a balanced budget….
Actor Seven: His Democratic opponent supports President Obama….
Actor One: …..And his liberal agenda.
Actors Two and Eight: That’s why we’re supporting Johnny Isakson.
Actor Nine: That’s why I’m supporting Johnny Isakson. He doesn’t stand on the sidelines.
Actor One: He fights for Georgia.
Johnny Isakson: I’m Johnny Isakson, and I approve this message.
On the Democratic side of the Senate race, state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond was in Washington on Tuesday, helping the U.S. Department of Agriculture talk about race. From My AJC colleague Bob Keefe:
Just weeks after the Shirley Sherrod race scandal rattled the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Georgia Labor Commissioner and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michael Thurmond walked into a USDA employee training session on civil rights and diversity with a confession:
He used to be “suspicious” of white people.
Thurmond, an African-American, had good reason to be wary of whites, he explained. He said he never even spoke to a white person until his all-black high school near Athens was consolidated with an all-white school when he was 18.
“You know why I was suspicious? It’s because I never had a conversation with white people before — because I didn’t know any of them,” Thurmond said Tuesday in a keynote speech at the USDA’s Civil Rights Diversity and Conflict Resolution and Management Conference. “The only white friend I had was on TV — Beaver,” as in “Leave It to Beaver.”
Thurmond, 57, said his suspicions receded as he came to know more white people during his last year at Clarke Central High School in Athens.
Just like Sherrod, the former Georgia USDA official who was improperly fired after an out-of-context clip of some of her remarks was distributed by a conservative blogger to make her sound racist, Thurmond characterized his own experience with white people as a lesson on race relations.
“I went from suspicion to recognition,” said Thurmond, who is running against Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson this year. And eventually, he added, the kid who had never talked to white people grew up and got elected to Georgia’s General Assembly, becoming the first black politician in the South to be elected in a white-majority district.
“That’s evolution,” Thurmond said.
The USDA’s two-day race and diversity conference comes as it is grappling with criticism over its handling of race issues such as the Sherrod case and a class-action lawsuit in which black farmers accused the agency of discrimination in its allocation of farm loans in the 1980s and 1990s.
Clearly, the agency and many of its employees are still skittish when it comes to talking about race.
After first opening the race and diversity conference to the media, USDA officials suddenly closed it to the press less than an hour before Thurmond was set to deliver his remarks. A camera crew from C-SPAN was turned away, as were other journalists. After first being asked to leave, an AJC reporter was allowed to listen to Thurmond’s speech but was ushered out immediately after his remarks.