With only the smallest notation of the fact, Republican Sam Olens broke through one of the oldest barriers in Georgia politics last week.
The man who will be our next attorney general is also the first Jewish candidate to win a statewide, partisan race in Georgia.
Apparently Olens’ religion was a factor in the campaign, but only one of many:
“There were four things against me,” Olens said. Yes, he was Jewish. But he was also a Florida native raised in New Jersey. He wasn’t part of the state Capitol crowd whose networks usually produce statewide candidates. Plus, he was from metro Atlanta.
“I think it is clear the Atlanta card was by far a bigger issue for me than any of the others,” Olens said. “I think we should take great pride in this state, in how little my religion played a part in the campaign.”
There were incidents, of course.
“There were whisper campaigns — big-time in the primary. I would walk into rooms and people would overtly comment about my religion to me,” Olens said. “But I think the nice thing is the number of folks who did that was very, very few.”
Reference to his New Jersey upbringing became “a code word,” he said.
I didn’t have any luck finding out where in NJ Olens was raised. He doesn’t exactly trumpet the fact on his campaign web site.
UPDATE: A staffer for Olens, in response to my query, fills in his NJ biography:
Mr. Olens moved as a child to Vineland, N.J., from Miami with his father following the death of his mother to be closer to family. A few years later, his father died and he and his brother and sister were raised by his aunt there following the death of his uncle.