As Stacey Abrams offers hints about her political future, Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is continuing to explore a potential run for U.S. Senate in 2020.
Abrams fell just short in November in her attempt to become the nation’s first black woman to be elected governor when she lost to Republican Brian Kemp.
Last Friday while speaking to the TEDWomen 2018 conference in California, Abrams dropped a hint as to her thinking.
“I am moving forward knowing what is in my past. I know the obstacles they have for me,” she said. “I’m fairly certain they’re energizing and creating new obstacles now. They’ve got four years to figure it out. Maybe two.”
Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue is up for re-election in two years. The next governor’s race is 2022.
Abrams was a little more clear in a story published Monday by Politico.
“I am thinking about both,” she told Politico. “Georgia is my state.”
Tomlinson is also careful in her words.
“I have made no decision about what I might do in the future, regarding political life,” Tomlinson said. “… A lot of assumptions are being made because I have said I am seriously looking at it.”
But during an exclusive interview with News 3 earlier this week, Tomlinson sounded like a candidate for the Senate seat.
“I guess it’s because I am so seriously thinking about it, right?” she said. “If I was just dabbling around foolishly, then we would be having a different conversation. and you would be getting different vibes.”
She will be leaving office in early January and joining the Atlanta-based law firm of Hall Booth Smith, P.C. as a partner. The firm has a Columbus office. The two-term mayor did not close the door to future elected office when she announced the new job last month.
“Actually, I am going to look and see if this is my time in this moment for the state and I think that is what every candidate should do,” Tomlinson said. “So, I am not really looking at where Stacey or any of the other very formidable candidates are in this process. Because I figure all that will shake out. eventually and the ones who are meant to be there will be here.”
Tomlinson hedged her answer when asked if she would run against Abrams in a Democratic primary.
“That is a hard question to answer because I consider Stacey a friend,” Tomlinson said. “I did some surrogate work for her. … Frankly, I don’t want to speak for her, but I think she would say if she was sitting here that I am a friend of hers. …That is a difficult question to answer. Not because of the reasons you are thinking — is it strategically advisable or that type of thing, but more our relationship.”
Tomlinson has not talked with Abrams since the election. The two have exchanged texts and Tomlinson has talked with members of the Abrams campaign. She credits Abrams with moving the Democratic Party forward and making Georgia a two-party state.
“We have to congratulate her and give her the reverence she is due for carrying the load that she has carried the last year and a half or more,” Tomlinson said.
And Tomlinson understands why Abrams is being careful about weighing the next political move.
“If I was in her shoes, I would be doing exactly the same thing,” Tomlinson said.
A decision on running needs to be made early next year, Tomlinson said. She believes Perdue is vulnerable.
“The one message that I am getting …. is that our current junior senator is not particularly accessible,” She said. “That is a criticism that I believe resonates. I am sure he and his supporters would take great exception to that. If Democrats are going to be successful, Democrats are going to have to exude accessibility, somebody who really understands public service.”
Though Columbus traditionally votes Democratic, the city with its business interest is a place candidates from all parties turn for contributions. Tomlinson said she has not talked to the business interests about a potential run.
“I think I could raise money to be extremely competitive, if not out-raise David Perdue. I have no intention of self-funding a campaign. I think if you are the type of candidate who is offering good government and they believe that, they will stand in line to invest in that.”