200302-ATLANTA-Teresa Tomlinson, former mayor of Columbus, speaks to the media before qualifying to run for the U.S. Senate Monday morning March 2, 2020 at the Georgia State Capitol. BenGray.com / Special
Photo: Ben@bengray.com/Ben Gray
Photo: Ben@bengray.com/Ben Gray

Tomlinson urges Democrats not to ‘squander’ shot against Perdue

Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson had a pointed message for national Democrats: Don’t relegate the former two-term Columbus mayor to afterthought status in the June 9 race to challenge Republican Sen. David Perdue. 

In a weekend memo, Tomlinson’s campaign urged party leaders not to “squander” the chance to oust Perdue by rallying behind Jon Ossoff, the investigative journalist and former 6th District candidate who is leading the public and private polls. 

Touting her elected experience, the memo said “Tomlinson can take the fight to Perdue in a way that a 33-year-old part owner of a documentary film company with a very thin resume could never do.”

The impetus for the memo was the decision by The Cook Report, a highly respected Washington-based political prognosticator, that gave Ossoff top billing when it downgraded Perdue’s chance to keep the seat from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”

But it goes deeper than that. Three separate internal Republican polls obtained this month by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show tight matchups between Ossoff and Perdue – and no mention of Tomlinson or Sarah Riggs Amico, the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor who is also in the race.

That tension came to a head this month in what's likely the only televised Democratic Senate debate before the primary. 

“People know you, but not enough to want to vote for you,” Tomlinson said to Ossoff, bringing up a poll that showed him narrowly trailing Perdue. 

He shot back: “Your campaign is so weak they didn’t even bother polling your name in that poll.”

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Tomlinson’s campaign also asserts that Stacey Abrams’ narrow defeat in 2018 showed that “winning Atlanta and its suburbs is not quite enough” and that her roots in middle Georgia would “help to expand the Abrams model and increase the likelihood of defeating Perdue.” 

It’s a snapshot of a strategy that could shape the final weeks of the race as the rivals jockey for a spot in a likely August runoff featuring the two top finishers. The scant public polling shows a high proportion of undecided voters, and the coronavirus pandemic has made the contest even more unpredictable. 

Aside from the debate retort, Ossoff has largely ignored Tomlinson’s jabs and focused his attention on Perdue, a former Fortune 500 chief executive with close ties to President Donald Trump. Amico has taken a similar approach, mostly refusing to assail her Democratic rivals.  

Tomlinson, meanwhile, has directly questioned whether Ossoff would wilt in November. At a virtual meeting Monday with faith-based leaders, including former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and Bishop Reginald Jackson, Tomlinson again emphasized her experience. 

“All candidates are not created politically equal. We absolutely must nominate someone who’s won elections and governed -- and governed well,” she said. “I’m the only candidate in the field who can bring in the voters we need from outside metro Atlanta.”

Read the memo:

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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