Politics & Government

She was mayor of Columbus and now she’s taking a step toward a US Senate bid

Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is planning to take the first official steps today toward challenging Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue in the 2020 election, according to an exclusive interview Thursday with the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Tomlinson met Wednesday with Democratic Party leaders in Washington, D.C., who she says approved of her candidacy, though they still are waiting for Stacey Abrams, who in 2018 ran against Brian Kemp for Georgia governor, to decide whether she will enter the race.

On Thursday, she sat down with the Ledger-Enquirer for an exclusive interview on her political aspirations.

What will you be doing as you prepare for your Senate bid?

“We’ll be taking this time, of course, to talk with people, citizens. I’ll also be talking with donors, setting up our team and laying a strong foundation for a successful candidacy, should Stacey Abrams, who of course is also looking at this seat, not run.”

Have you spoken with Stacey Abrams?

“We’ve been in contact. We’ve met personally. We’ve talked on the phone. We’ve text-messaged. We try to stay in contact with her busy schedule, but as you know, she was offered the position as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s chosen candidate for this particular position, should she want it, and since then she’s had a lot of opportunities open up for her. We want to make sure we give her the space she needs to make the decision under these exciting circumstances, and at the same time, it’s created a circumstance where we’d actually pulled together a bit of a team. We were actually planning on a launch when it was offered to Stacey, and so we’ve had to stand down. But that still caused us to incur some nominal expenses, which now have met the minimum threshold of the Federal Elections Committee of $5,000, and so we’ve all been in conversation about how we can make sure that I remain in compliance, and remain a viable candidate, should she choose not to run….”

Will your plans change if Abrams enters the race?

“Well, we’re still in the exploratory committee, obviously. That’s what we’re attempting to all coordinate through staying in touch, is making sure that everyone’s interest is being served. The major objective of course is getting the best representation for the state of Georgia that we possibly can in the U.S. Senate, and certainly the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wants to make sure that they have a strong Democratic candidate in that race. And so we’re trying to allow Stacey to finish her book tour, which is very exciting. We’re very proud of what she’s doing. It’s a strong Georgia voice on a national stage, and at the same time, make sure we’ve laid that groundwork that’s so necessary to have a successful campaign.”

So you can’t say that you would drop out, if she got in?

“Well, I think if she got in, she’s clearly the Democratic Party’s selected candidate for this particular race. It’s been offered to her by the minority leader, very publicly. I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been in the press and that they themselves have not stated publicly. That position’s been offered to her, should she want it. And you know, Stacey Abrams and I have been in the trenches of Democratic politics in the state of Georgia for a very long time, and we’re excited about the fact that finally all this hard work is paying off. It is a two-party state, and we are well poised to have a Democratic senator in the United States Senate from Georgia. So we want to make sure that we’re not working against each other, or that our efforts are not colliding in that shared objective.”

Why do you think this the right time to run for Senate?

“I will tell you it’s not news to anybody that Washington is paralyzed by dysfunction. You see it gripped by dysfunction through corrupted process and policies, mostly related to ego and bad decisions. We see it today with the fact that aid that’s desperately needed for Georgians is at a standstill because of the inability to have relationships that allow us to move forward in the business of the people. And so one of the reasons I think that this is a time for me to run is because my background, first with being a lawyer specializing in complex litigation, being a mayor taking on some pretty big challenges, as you know, working with MidTown Inc., helping to save Sweetbriar College. I’m very adept at resolving dysfunction. I have a lot of experience with solving the unsolvable, and those are skills the United States Senate is in desperate need of.”

Do you think you have the statewide name recognition to win?

“Well, first of all, I’ve only spent $5,000 on name recognition, so that’s something. For someone who has not launched a major campaign yet, and you’re talking about a campaign that’s going to cost some $22 million, and that’s probably the opening bid in today’s world of politics. … In fact we heard some polling recently that’s very encouraging, so I think it’s been helpful that I’ve had the opportunity to be mayor of a major city in the state of Georgia, had the opportunity to speak around the state on issues that are important to cities in the state, and also had the opportunity to provide analysis related to governmental policy, and the goings on of the state of Georgia in various different venues. I think that’s helped a great deal.”

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Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.