Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson filed exploratory paperwork Friday to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020. She said, though, that “obviously I support Stacey” Abrams if she decides to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue. AJC file

As Abrams weighs next step, former Columbus mayor preps for Senate run

Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson filed paperwork Friday to explore the groundwork for a 2020 U.S. Senate bid if Stacey Abrams doesn’t run.

The Democrat told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she’s been “standing down” for weeks as Abrams has publicly weighed a challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, but that she had to file exploratory paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to start paying the campaign team she’s assembled.

“Stacey deserves more time to consider this, particularly with her book tour being extended, and I needed to file for the exploratory committee,” Tomlinson said. “We’re all hovering around the same objective of making sure a Democrat wins — and we’ll know by the end of April.”

Tomlinson’s decision reflects the touchy maneuvering ahead of next year’s Senate contest. Abrams has essentially frozen the Democratic field as she debates challenging Perdue, preparing a 2022 rematch against Gov. Brian Kemp or launching a bid for the White House.

But Democrats also want to lay the foundation early for a race against Perdue, a former Fortune 500 chief executive who is one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies in the Senate. The race is likely to shatter state spending records, and Tomlinson said she will soon launch a series of events.

“There’s a long way to go, but we really felt it necessary to get out there,” said Tomlinson, who added that “obviously I support Stacey.”

“There’s a lot of field work, there’s a lot of donor cultivation and relationships to build,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to raise $22 million. You’ll be seeing us all over the place.”

Abrams is expected to make her decision on a Senate bid by the end of the month, but she recently said she would wait until the fall to announce whether she’s running for the White House. That’s led many Georgia Democrats to predict she’s likely to bypass a challenge to Perdue.

Still, at least publicly, Abrams hasn’t ruled out a challenge to Perdue. She met with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has aggressively recruited her to run, for the third time on Thursday. A day before, Schumer and other Senate leaders huddled with Tomlinson to discuss her plans.

If Tomlinson runs, she probably won’t be the only well-known Democrat in the contest.

Sarah Riggs Amico, who waged an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor last year, and former 6th Congressional District candidate Jon Ossoff are also considering bids. Perdue, meanwhile, probably won’t face any major threat in the Republican primary.

Running as a political outsider, Perdue emerged from a crowded GOP field in 2014 to defeat Democrat Michelle Nunn by about 8 percentage points. But Trump’s struggles in Atlanta’s suburbs and the tight margins of last year’s statewide races have lifted Democratic hopes of unseating him.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at www.ajc.com/politics.

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