Teresa Tomlinson

Teresa Tomlinson meets Martin Presley in Forsyth in her campaign for senate.

A room full of interested citizens welcomed U.S. Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson on Nov. 11 as she came to Forsyth to meet potential supporters and answer questions about why she is running to unseat David Perdue in the 2020 election. Her visit attracted people from Barnesville, Macon and Jasper County as well as from around Monroe County to the meeting hosted by the Blue Bridge Society at Forsyth Presbyterian Church Parrish House.

Tomlinson said that Georgia is in the midst of a seismic change in politics in the state; it has shifted from Democrat to Republican over the years, but for the first time it is now a two-party state. 

“Never has there been this level of involvement, and people don’t know what to do,” said Tomlinson. “This is a state that’s in transition.”

Tomlinson served two terms as mayor of Columbus, Ga. from 2011-19 and is credited with Columbus being named one of the 25 Best Run Cities in America for reducing crime, balancing the budget, reforming the jail system, decreasing blight, improving the city’s recreation areas and entertainment district and renovating the animal control system. Shortly after completing her second term as mayor at the end of 2019, she announced her campaign for the statewide senate seat. 

As Columbus mayor she reportedly reduced veteran homelessness by 95 percent, reduced crime by 42 percent and saved taxpayers huge sums.

Before, and after, her service as Columbus mayor, Tomlinson, a graduate of Emory University law school, was an attorney specializing in complex litigation, crisis management and strategic solutions, having risen to a position of partner in her firm. She graduated from public high school in DeKalb County and Sweet Briar College in Virginia. She is married to Trip Tomlinson, whose roots in Columbus for eight generations brought her to adopt that city as her home town.

Tomlinson worked for the Republican Party during her college years and several years thereafter until she couldn’t support its policies. She said there has been too much “smoke and mirrors” in Republican politics.

“Policies of the Republicans have failed us,” said Tomlinson. “Plenty of people remember voting for Democrats and getting good government.”

She said people in Georgia need to stop being embarrassed to say they voted for a Democrat and realize that Trump carried only 50.4 percent of the vote in Georgia during the last presidential election, and the gubernatorial election was decided by only 55,000 votes. 

“We can have this moment and be on the threshold of getting back to good government,” said Tomlinson.

She said she understands what it means to be struggling to get out of poverty because she comes from a long line of sharecroppers and people who worked in timber and other jobs without futures. She said her mother left school at 16 to marry her father and then cared for his disabled parents because that’s what people did. The change in her family came when her father got a union job with Swift Packing Company; her mother was able to help send Tomlinson and her sister to college by working union jobs in various meat departments. 

“I have cousins struggling in these rural communities,” she said. “I celebrate Atlanta, but there are unique opportunities outside of Atlanta.”

She said one of those is the need for broadband Internet. As the first woman in her law firm, she had to wait to prove herself until she was given bogged down cases that no one else wanted to fool with. A high profile one of those cases was the Value Jet crash in the Florida everglades. Florida law only valued a life lost if the individual had dependents; it calculated a monetary value on how many years until dependents reached majority age. The Value Jet was full of young newlyweds coming home from honeymoons who had no dependents. She found a way to file the case in Atlanta instead of Florida and incurred the wrath of the aviation industry.

“No Georgian’s life is without value,” she said. “I learned sometimes you have to take the tiger by the tail and get ready for ramifications.”

She said she had never thought of getting into politics until she ran for mayor of Columbus, but she saw the need for someone willing to talk about difficult subjects and change to power structure so there could be economic development. She was proud to be the first Columbus mayor to be elected to a second term since 1971 and to be re-elected by a 68 percent majority. 

Tomlinson said Perdue says government is the problem; she said government is not the problem, the problem is leadership. She said the Senate now looks like the World Wrestling Association instead of a governing body. 

“In Columbus I turned it around to good government. I’ve been in hard scrabble elections, and I know how to govern,” she said. “There is no way Perdue can paint me as a socialist. There is no way Columbus would have twice elected a socialist.”

She said Perdue has failed on every promise he made in his campaign, including reducing the $1 billion deficit, and has engineered devastating tariff wars on Georgia farmers. He failed in getting emergency assistance to Georgia farmers after Hurricane Michael, and a year later many have still not been able to re-build. 

Larry Evans asked Tomlinson her position on privatizing Veterans Administration services. She said she is against privatization because it opens up profiteering. She said partnerships with private industry can be good, but there are some where government must take the lead and one of those is insuring a continuum of care for service members and veterans. “It doesn’t end with the mission or the service to honor veterans. We have to pay for it on the backside, too,” she said.

“You can’t love our veterans and hate the government they stand for,” she said. “Perdue has failed us.”

Another question was whether she supported investigating immigration detention centers in Georgia. Tomlinson said she supports inspecting all centers, but it is more important to get a handle on immigration, which would reduce the need for detention centers. 

“We’ve cut aid to South and Central America. People always run to hope and light. We need a system that adjudicates fairly and quickly,” she said. “It’s never been illegal to seek asylum. The President is changing the system daily.”

Eddie Shepherd asked Tomlinson her opinion on Medicare for all. She said she does not support Medicare for all but supports reimbursements to doctors becoming realistic, to 100 percent of costs, and supports expanding the 1990’s program to pay off doctors’ educational debts if they will locate in underserved areas. She said her policy paper on health care is available for anyone to read.

Evans asked about the current administration’s efforts to phase out the Workforce Development Act, which he said benefits the community. Tomlinson said Central and South Georgia workers depend on training to get jobs.

“You can point to people who have had their lives changed,” she said. “Even if you don’t want to be compassionate, do it in your own best interest [for economic development].”

Marilyn Langford thanked Tomlinson for coming to Forsyth. She said Tomlinson was asked to be at a fundraiser on her behalf in Athens at the same time but said that she had already committed to speak in Forsyth. 

“She said her word is her bond, and now we know what we can expect from her,” said Langford.

The Blue Bridge Society recognized some of the outstanding veterans in Monroe County:

Glover Stuart served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War, earning a Purple Heart. He is retired from IBEW and has worked for people in Monroe County in Habitat for  Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Lions Club, American Legion Post and many other groups, including chairing the Monroe County Democratic Party from 1955 until about 2017.

Bud Queen, George Langford, Billy Powell, Larry Evans, Truett Goodwin, Martin Presley, Rhett McMurray and others were honored for their service in various military branches and at different times of need in the U.S.