After flirting with a possible run for governor, Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has decided not to seek that or any other statewide office next year, she confirmed Wednesday morning.
“What I learned in this process,” she said, “and was a bit of a — I don’t want to say surprise — but you know it was something that elucidated and enlightened my perspective of what Columbus is thought of throughout the state and certainly the need for this pragmatic leadership that we’ve seen in Columbus during this administration. It does have a good reputation, and I think, perhaps, I underestimated that. I thought maybe it was more regional and more local. And so there’s a real, I think, need for the type of leadership that’s been demonstrated here and that was a bit of a surprise to me. I think if I had known that sooner, perhaps I would be in the 2018 race.”
The most likely possibility for a statewide run is the 2020 U.S. Senate race for the seat currently held by Sen. David Purdue, who is in his first term, Tomlinson said.
“I am looking at a federal position — the Senate position in 2020,” she said.
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Tomlinson lives in the 2nd Congressional District and said she would not seek that office as long as it is held by Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop.
“He’s my congressman and he’s of the same party,” she said. “He’s my guy. And he’s been my guy for a long time. ... What’s the purpose there? What’s the net value to the Democratic Party and the state of Georgia? ... What’s the point of that, other than self-promotion? And that I am not into.”
Tomlinson will conclude her eight years as Columbus’ first female mayor next year. She first won election in 2010 and then was re-elected in 2014.
“I plan to finish strong as the two-term mayor of the great city of Columbus, Ga.,” Tomlinson said in a prepared statement. “We have important work to finish to achieve our vision for Columbus as we head into our bicentennial. Being a good steward of this amazing city has always been my primary objective. While in the batter’s box, I keep my eye on the ball, not on the stands.”
A month ago, Tomlinson said she was considering a Democratic bid for either Georgia governor or secretary of state. As she talked with dozens of political and business leaders in the state over the last month, that conversation centered on a Democratic bid for governor, Tomlinson said.
“I came pretty close,” she said. “Governor is the only thing I really looked into. I think secretary of state is a such an important position, but as an executive — and a successful executive — the experience and the particular talents I have honed are unique for that position.”
One of the reasons Tomlinson cited for not running was her current duties as chairwoman of Sweet Briar College in central Virginia, which Tomlinson and other alumnae fought to save from closure in 2015.
“Resurrecting Sweet Briar College has been nothing short of a miracle,” she said in the prepared statement. “It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to see that storied institution return to its previous vibrancy and to continue its important mission of educating the next generation of women leaders. The next two years are critical to completing its transition and I need to be there to help see it through.”