Skip to comments.Herman Cain, Georgia's next United States Senator
Posted on 06/20/2004 5:15:01 AM PDT by Maurice1962
Posted on Wed, Jun. 16, 2004
Black businessman looks for GOP votes in Senate race
ROCKMART, Ga. - Herman Cain is a self-made man with a rags-to-riches background and a yen to start a political career at the top, never mind the long march most candidates make through steppingstone offices to get a shot at the U.S. Senate.
It's not a unique biography for a Republican candidate in Georgia and it invites comparisons to Guy Millner, the wealthy businessman who seemed ill-suited to the campaign trail and three times led Georgia Republicans to electoral defeats in the 1990s.
But Cain is no Guy Millner, he protested during a recent interview. A pause followed and then he burst into laughter. "Because we have different color eyes."
Another difference - left unspoken - is that Cain is black. That brings a unique twist to a three-way race for the Republican Senate nomination in Georgia this year.
Cain is the first black candidate in modern times to seek a top statewide office under the Republican banner in Georgia, and his candidacy has created quite a buzz.
A professional speaker who commands up to $25,000 for his services, Cain is a wizard of the microphone who delivers a rock-ribbed conservative message with the vigor of the Southern Baptist minister that he is.
It is a message that potentially could cross racial lines in a July 20 primary election in which few blacks are likely to participate.
Scott Cook, a 39-year-old middle school teacher, left a forum here impressed with Cain's performance.
"Before I came here, I did not even know about Mr. Cain," said Cook, who is white. "After seeing this, he has swayed me probably to where I'm going to be voting for him in the primary. He sounded like he had some good, fresh ideas whereas the others were basically politics as usual."
On a speaking tour that will take him from this west Georgia city to the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Cain will draw favorable comments from mostly white audiences who like his message and fall under the spell of his powerful voice.
How many will vote for him in the primary? That's the biggest unknown, and the odds look especially long because his two opponents both are congressmen with built-in bases of support - Reps. Johnny Isakson of Marietta and Mac Collins of Hampton.
"He has a lot of political skills, a tremendous amount of natural political talent," said Emory University political science professor Merle Black. "His main problem always has been he's running against candidates who are veteran office holders who have already built up networks of political support."
Only four blacks ever have served in the U.S. Senate and only two in modern times: Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican, who served from 1967 to 1979, and Carol Mosely-Braun, an Illinois Democrat, who served from 1993 to 1999.
Cain is undaunted. He is a risk-taker, or he never would have risen to be vice president of the company for which his father pushed a broom as janitor. Or rescued Godfather's Pizza, the Omaha, Neb.-based fast-food chain, from the threat of bankruptcy and then bought out the company.
His philosophy is outlined in a speech he often gives business groups: "Let me tell you how I spell entrepreneur: r-i-s-k."
Cain is a Georgia native who's been away a very long time and only now is reintroducing himself to the state.
Born in Atlanta in 1945, his father worked three jobs to support the family and his mother worked as a maid. After graduating from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics and a minor in physics in 1967, he worked as a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy in Virginia developing fire control systems for weapons.
"It was safe, it was secure, it was comfortable and it was predictable," he said of that job. "Well, there was too much predictability and safety for me early in my career."
In 1972 he went to work for The Coca Cola Co. in Atlanta as a business problem solver and four years later was recruited by the Pillsbury Co. in Minneapolis, Minn., to become manager of business analysis.
He eventually became a vice president of the company for which his father once had worked as a janitor, but jumped to the Burger King division of the company in 1982 to start a new career path he hoped would take him to a corporate presidency.
After more success there, Pillsbury tapped him to take over the ailing Godfather's chain. He restored it to profitability and eventually bought it, finally selling his interest last year. He returned to Georgia in 2000 and now lives in McDonough.
Cain got involved in national political issues as president of the National Restaurant Association, battling government mandates and regulation. He flirted with a run for president in 2000, hoping "to elevate the discussions to real solutions to the big problems," but withdrew.
He credits his pastor, the Rev. Cameron Alexander of Antioch Baptist Church North, with the push that got him in the Senate race. "He gave a sermon one Sunday that said a calling is when your talents intersect human needs," Cain said.
Issue Number One for Cain is replacing the income tax with a national sales tax.
"All of the social problems that we have in this country can be traced back to economic conditions, and economic conditions can all be traced through the health of the economy and the economy is most hampered by the tax code. Go for the jugular! This is my whole point. This is why I get excited about this," he declares.
He opposes abortion except when the mother's life is endangered, although he once also would have allowed exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
"I never envisioned I would be running for public office, so I never tried to couch what I said based on what somebody was going to bring up 15 years later," he explained. "Three exceptions has been sort of a political middle ground to be pro-life for a long time, and that's where I started ... I've gotten more conservative."
Cain, the risk-taker, has invested $775,000 of his own money in his campaign, a sizable chunk for a guy who estimates his net worth at between $5 million and $10 million.
It's an investment, he says. "I'm investing it in changing the future of this country."
Dick Pettys has covered Georgia government and politics since 1970
Cain sounds like a winner.
When I was visiting my parents a few weeks ago, they said they were voting for him in the primary. That is 2 senior citizens that are voting for him.
This primary will tell us a lot more about the Republican voters of GA than it will Herman Cain the candidate.
Herman Cain is a great Conservative Republican , and he is a great speaker. He is running against a well like (incumbent) Republican, Matt Collins. There is also another Republican running Johnny Isakson. I have heard all three of them speak. Georgia is in a great position to have such fine choices in this U.S. Senate Seat.
There are 8 Democrats running for that position.
Interesting. Could you elaborate?
Why do you say that?
Georgia Republicans have a perfect opportunity to drive a stake in the concept that Republicans don't care about minority issues. There is no better spokesman than Cain. He effectively transcends all socio-economic, racial and political boundries. In other words, he gets his hands dirty.
He is not a professional politician but a professional problem solver.
The challenge will be if Georgia Republicans think outside of the box or stick with the status quo.
The Cain candidacy will tell whether the GOP in GA will accept a real conservative or whether it just wants more "business-as-usual" politicians who talk one way but never vote accordingly in Washington. They say they want fiscal restraint but then vote for most of the spending proposals that their colleagues want so as to get their own wasteful spending approved. It will tell us if the GA GOP is socially conservative, whether it really cares about the moral rot facing the nation.
I like Cain, but I do not like the way you are pretending that the other Republican Candidates are not as good as he is. I have not decided how to vote yet. But This is not making me like the choice of Cain. Do not represent Cain in this way, it only makes your candidate sound like a Democrat.
I've been following Cain's story for a while. I'm disappointed that I don't live where I can vote for this extraordinary candidate.
I don't understand. There are two conservatives and a RINO.
Isakson does not rock the boat. He attaches his name to legislation and votes accordingly. He has proposed no new bold innitatives to solve the fiscal problems.
Collins is profoundly conservative. He votes conservative and believes conservatism and is a wonderful person. He just isn't utilizing his leadership capacity to provide an agenda.
Cain on the otherhand has a career of life long achievement in leadership. He has done more for local party development in 9 months than literally any other candidate or party official over years. And he's done it single handedly.
I am a vice chair of the local party in a Middle Georgia county and I appreciate the investment of time and energy Cain has delivered. That is why so many volunteers are passionate about his candidacy.
While others talk about grassroots,,, Cain is planting, fertilizing and mowing the lawn.
I had the pleasure of being a delegate to the Georgia Republican Convention, sat the third row, front and center, listened to all the Candidates speak. Cain is a dynamic speaker, and I am sure he is a great choice, but as I said he is running against a well liked Republican Incumbent, who is also a great choice.
I have to admit, that Cain inspires Passion. As I said, I have not made up my mind yet. But I am watching.
What I tell everyone is to support your candidate with as much zeal, enthusiasm and labor as you can. At the end of the day if you win, you'll feel like you contributed your portion. If he happens to lose, you did your part.
The sad thing is that the vast majority do nothing.
Did you get to meet Steve Forbes? I was tickled to death. I got a photo with him before the governors dinner.
He was a very nice fellow, left a great first impression with me.
I disagree sightly with Theodore's characterization. Cain is a true conservative, as I believe Mac Collins to be as well.
In my opinion, the difference between the two is that Mac will stay fairly quiet in the background and follow the party line, even when it isnt the conservative line. Cain will be an outspoken champion of the conservative line and a strong leader for change.
Isakson, no matter what he says, is just not as conservative as the other two, and I dont think can even be counted on as a party line voter.
I will gladly take Isakson over Majette should he win the nomination, but Cain will be the most effective and best conservative voice we can possible send to the Senate.
Well said, and You brought out some good points about the Candidates characteristics. I have noticed some of the same traits.
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