Newly re-elected Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said there was at least one “civics lesson” that could be taken from her victory Tuesday over challenger Colin Martin. That is, she said, that a positive campaign can prevail over a negative one.
“We showed something that I’ve always wanted to test,” Tomlinson said. “That is that you can run a positive campaign in the face of negative campaigning and come out a winner. I think that’s a good example to set, especially on the local level.”
Tomlinson defeated Martin 15,515 to 9,189, or about 63-37 percent in Tuesday’s nonpartisal municipal election. Tomlinson said Martin’s use of crime and other negatives might have backfired on him.
“Unfortunately, the way their campaign was run, we had five months of tearing the city down. We’re a miserable city. We can’t open our front doors. We’re crime-ridden,” Tomlinson said. “I think it’s human reaction to come back and respond to negative campaigning with negatives of your own. But I really felt that as mayor that I have a duty to build the city up, so I tried to build the city up and inform voters of the facts.”
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Martin conceded Wednesday that there were negative aspects to his campaign, but that there were positive aspects, too.
“I actually put out a couple of very positive things,” Martin said. “I had the public safety plan, the economic development plan that we talked about a lot, which were not negative. You’ve got to show where the differences are, but that was not the entire basis of the campaign.”
Tomlinson said there were times when she considered firing back at Martin, but she decided not to.
“I’ve been in politics my whole life, even thought this is my first elected office,” Tomlinson said. “I knew what my options were. We had them available, but we never put them on the table. We knew what they were.
Martin said the wide margin of victory surprised him.
“It did not feel like it was going to be that big as we got closer to the date,” Martin said. “It was clear that the Tomlinson campaign did a very good job of working the early vote, which contributed to the margin.”
Tomlinson said she was disappointed when several elected officials chose to stand publicly with Martin and even endorse his campaign. She said it was just politics, but it was divisive politics.
“There is a forgive-and-forget concept in politics. I think you forgive once the electorate has spoken. You forgive the antics that go on before (the vote),” Tomlinson said. “I do think that this was extremely divisive, unnecessarily so. There’s always going to be differences of opinion, especially when you’re dealing with the kinds of fiscal issues we’ve been dealing with. I don’t think that’s unusual. But I think the way it was orchestrated for purposes of the opposing campaign was very divisive.”
Tomlinson said that aspect of the campaign reinforced the “civics lesson” she spoke of earlier.
“I think the civics lesson of this particular election is, ‘Are we a community that tolerates divisiveness for the sake of somebody getting a job, or for the sake of proving a particular agenda?’ I think the answer is no,” she said.
Going forward, Tomlinson said she sees “big ideas” on the city’s horizons for the next four years.
“Revitalizing blighted areas, you’re going to see the City Village coming of age as a concept. You’re going to see us moving forward with the passenger rail front, being in line right behind Atlanta-to-Charlotte possibly,” she said. “Those types of really big ideas, the types of big ideas that won’t necessarily occur while I’m sitting in this chair, but will be well planted and growing by the time that I leave. Those are the types of things you’ll see.”
For his part, Martin said it’s too early for him to answer questions about any future political aspirations.
“We did everything we could with what we had,” Martin said. “I had some great volunteers who did a lot for me. Folks believed in me, gave some money, and we just came up short.”