ATLANTA — State Sen. Bruce Thompson launched a campaign for Georgia commissioner of labor Friday with an attack on the leadership of incumbent Commissioner Mark Butler.
“The Department of Labor has been completely mismanaged and has failed the citizens of Georgia,” said Thompson, R-White, who will challenge Butler for the Republican nomination next spring.
“It’s time for fresh ideas, new leadership, and a solution-oriented approach to cut through the bureaucratic red tape, empower small businesses in our state and get hardworking Georgians the benefits they deserve.”
Thompson is just the latest Republican politician to challenge a sitting GOP statewide officeholder in what has become a sharply divided Georgia Republican Party.
Thus far, Gov. Brian Kemp has drawn two Republican primary opponents: former state Rep. Vernon Jones and Appling County educator Kandiss Taylor.
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, and former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle are running in next year’s GOP primary against incumbent Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Kemp and Raffensperger have drawn criticism from loyalists of former President Donald Trump inside the Georgia GOP for refusing to overturn last November’s election results that saw Democrat Joe Biden carry the Peach State by just 11,779 votes.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a third Republican to defend last year’s presidential outcome in Georgia as valid, is not seeking re-election.
Thompson was elected to the Georgia Senate in 2012 in a district that includes Bartow and Cherokee counties and parts of Cobb County.
He is chairman of the Senate’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee and formerly chaired the Science and Technology Committee and the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee.
Thompson has started several businesses, starting with a company he founded in South Florida at age 22 to provide tenant improvements to shopping centers.
In Georgia, he started two automatic swimming pool cover businesses that grew to become the largest in the Southeast before being acquired in 2018.
Thompson also has been active in the insurance business.
The native of Montana attended college on a wrestling scholarship before serving four years in the U.S. Army as a tank commander.
Butler’s labor department has come under fire during the coronavirus pandemic, which caused unemployment claims filed with the agency to skyrocket, piling up a backlog of unprocessed claims.
With state lawmakers being deluged by constituent complaints, the General Assembly responded this year by passing legislation creating the position of “chief labor officer” to work with the commissioner.
However, Kemp vetoed the bill, arguing it would have created an unclear chain of command within the labor department without specifying how to resolve disputes that might have arisen between the commissioner – an elected official — and the chief labor officer.
Two Democrats also have entered the 2022 race for labor commissioner: state Sen. Lester Jackson of Savannah and Georgia Rep. William Boddie of East Point.