“If I have an opportunity where I can help Georgia get to a better place, then I’m going to take it – whether it’s being governor or being DFCS director.”
Thurmond’s political career has run the gamut. A former state legislator who represented his native Athens, Thurmond steered the Department of Family and Child Services in the 1990s and was elected state labor commissioner in 1998.
He was recruited as DeKalb’s superintendent in February 2013 to bring stability to the school system when its accreditation was in doubt. And in 2016 he was elected to the first of two terms as CEO of DeKalb, the state’s most important Democratic stronghold.
Thurmond has long advocated Democrats must appeal to a broad coalition of progressives, moderates and even disaffected Republicans to win statewide in Georgia. That contrasts with policies from more left-leaning candidates who have pressed Democrats to embrace authentic liberal values to win.
Beyond whether he can build an electoral coalition, Thurmond would also face questions about whether he can raise the enormous sum it takes to wage a competitive campaign in Georgia now. Stacey Abrams raised more than $110 million during her 2022 race, and still lost by about 7 percentage points.
Abrams has indicated she could wage a third campaign for governor, this time in a wide-open race because Gov. Brian Kemp can’t run for another term. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath and former gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter are among the other potential contenders.
The Republican side of the contest is just as competitive. Attorney General Chris Carr and Lt. Gov. Burt Jones are both expected to seek higher office, and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger could join the fray.
Thurmond cautioned that 2026 is a long way out – and that he needs to first take some time off.
“I love this county and I love the people who live here. Once that’s done, I’m going to rest. I counsel young leaders, don’t make important decisions when you’re tired. I can’t really explain how draining it’s been to be an elected official in a leadership position during a pandemic. I’ve been through many iterations of this career, but nothing like this.”
Thurmond added: “Once that’s done and we can land this plane, I’m going to rest and then I’ll be open to whatever opportunities are out there.”