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ATLANTA - Georgia's labor commissioner said Wednesday he will run this year for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Johnny Isakson.

Michael Thurmond, one of the most prominent black Democrats in the state, said he is running to improve the lives of Georgia residents. The U.S. Senate has lost most of its minority members in recent years and the only black U.S. senator, Roland Burris of Illinois, isn't running in November.

Thurmond, an Athens native, will need to win the Democratic primary in July against a lesser known opponent, former Rockdale County chief of staff and first-time candidate R.J. Hadley. The winner will face an uphill fight against Isakson, who has more than $4 million in the bank for his re-election bid.

With his wife, Zola, at his side, and standing under a portrait of Georgia founder James Oglethorpe in the rotunda of the Capitol, Thurmond told the crowd of supporters that going to the Senate was the best way for him to help Georgians.

"It's time to send someone to Washington who will put you and your family first," Thurmond said. "At this critical juncture in the history of our nation, we need servant leaders in Washington who will forsake political expediency and partisan gridlock."

Thurmond has served three terms as labor commissioner. Before that he served as a state lawmaker and head of the state's Department of Family and Children's Services.

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