Richard Hyatt: Mayoral race already heating up

December 26, 2013 

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

JOE PAULL — jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com

The election for mayor of Columbus doesn't come up until the next calendar year, but more than five months before votes are cast the fireplace is already blazing.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson's ears must have been burning when challenger Colin Martin talked about running for mayor with Ledger-Enquirer government reporter Mike Owen. It wasn't what he said but how he said it.

About how he would work with Columbus Council: "I would listen more and talk less."

About what his leadership style would be: "I've been married for 24 years and been a father for 18 years. And the two most important lessons that I got out of that are, No. 1, I'm usually not the smartest person in the room and, No. 2, I don't have to be the person who is always right."

Martin's choice of words was telling. He offered an open invitation to council members that have had their moments with the mayor to come over to his side, and he appealed to critics who talk about her ego and that she always wants the last word.

Tomlinson and Martin aren't the only horses in the race. Zeph Baker, who lost a mayoral runoff in 2010, is back, though there is talk that he might change his mind. No one knows what him dropping out would mean to the mathematics of the campaign.

A one-on-one race would be interesting. Tomlinson and Martin have long-term platforms on Facebook, and the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce vice president is also a readable blogger.

The mayor has cultivated a following in South Columbus but Martin and his six siblings grew up in a modest one-bath house in Oakland Park. She likes to talk about her days at Sweet Briar College, and Martin is a proud Eagle Scout.

In the background is a poll conducted by an out-of-town consultant. Believe these numbers and you wonder why anyone would run against Tomlinson. It shows her with formidable strength among Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, and voters in every part of town.

Martin, who ran for council in 2002, tells people he has seen those numbers and he still believes he can beat her. He is likely to question the mayor on city spending and public safety.

His comments about not being the smartest person in the room and not always needing to be right were taunts directed at Tomlinson. She has often shown thin skin but in this case she totally ignored Martin. He is sure to test that reserve in the coming months.

Tomlinson will be the favorite, though this might not be a good year for incumbents. Martin's biggest selling point may be that he isn't Teresa. So get ready for the high heels versus the bow tie.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906@knology.net.

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