Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) - He has one of the most recognizable names in American politics, but there's a lot you don't know about Albert Gore, Jr.
For instance, he was a Green Beret and master parachutist in the Army with 91 jumps under his belt and the rank of colonel. He has a fondness for cigars and pipes, lit or unlit. And in 1998, he retired from a 51-year career as a Methodist minister.
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No, Col. Albert Nottly Gore, Jr., is not the Albert Arnold Gore, Jr., who served as U.S. Senator from Tennessee, vice president, and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee.
But he is following the better-known Gore's footsteps in one notable way: he's Mississippi's Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Roger Wicker.
Although both Gores are delegates to the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte, the octogenarian retired minister and veteran is the only Albert Gore who showed up in person.
Colonel Gore has never met the former vice president, whom he calls a distant relative, but says the two served in Vietnam at the same time.
"He's a good man. Honest. And he should have been president," he said.
As a candidate, Gore, a self-described "progressive Democrat," is focusing on "preserving Social Security, holding on to Medicare, and supporting education for the years ahead."
He says he tossed his green beret into the ring when "no one else would step up."
"I promised the party last year that if no one stepped up, I would," he said. "I'm not one to sit around and wait for someone else to do it."
The colonel has his work cut out for him. Mississippi hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the 1980s. And he is unlikely to receive any help from the top of the ticket. The state, which has voted Democratic in a presidential election only once since 1960, is considered safe territory for Mitt Romney in November.
Nonetheless, the Wicker campaign says its candidate isn't taking anything for granted.
"Senator Wicker is approaching the campaign very seriously," said Rick Curtsinger, a Wicker campaign spokesman. "He's been traveling across the state meeting with Mississippians, talking with them, and will put forth a very strong effort to win in November. Certainly a Senate race is never a thing that candidates should be taking lightly."
Wicker had $2.3 million in the bank at the end of June. Gore has none of the required campaign finance paperwork on file with the Federal Election Commission but says he's "running on his own resources," including $6000 for gas to campaign around the state.
As for whether running with the name Al Gore helps or hurts in Mississippi, Curtsinger said, "You'd have to ask Mr. Gore that. Senator Wicker is focused on the issues that are affecting Mississippians and putting forth conservative solutions."
Of his famous moniker, Gore said, "It helped on name recognition, even though I was already known in Democratic circles throughout the state."
Stuart Rothenberg, a non-partisan political analyst and editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, was blunt in assessing the race: "Wrong state. Wrong party. Wrong Gore. His chance of winning is zero."
Gore has a more optimistic view of the odds: "I'm going to beat him."
He says his training as a Green Beret and Army parachutist has helped him on the campaign trail.
"You overcome any fears," he said. "I'm a Green Beret. Nothing is impossible."
Gore, a first-time delegate, is attending official convention events but is staying off the party circuit and is not going out of his way to meet celebrities or collect any convention souvenirs.
"I don't need any more junk," he said.
But he did run into Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz at an event Monday and handed her his campaign flier.
"I don't know if she remembered me or not," he said. "I just wanted to remind her that I'm still alive. I'm still here, and I'm doing okay."