First Congressional District Democrats met Saturday afternoon in a sweltering Screven community center for an intensive analysis of upcoming challenges for the 2020 election.
Presiding over the meeting was District Chair Lisa Ring, whose 42.3 percent vote against sitting Republican Sen. Buddy Carter wasn’t enough to unseat him in last year’s election.
When making the decision to run again in 2020, Ring said, it was important for her to keep the last election’s momentum going instead of leaving another Democrat to start a campaign from scratch.
The keynote speaker was Teresa Tomlinson, who declared her run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent David Perdue late last month.
“I hate bullies, and I love justice,” Tomlinson said in her introduction, “so I’m running for the United States Senate.”
She shared her background as a lawyer specializing in complex litigation, crisis management and strategic solutions, followed by her stint as mayor of Columbus.
“I’m a pragmatic progressive who speaks fluent Republican,” Tomlinson said of herself. “Democrats speak in moral imperatives, while Republicans tend to speak in terms of economic rationalities. I take moral imperatives and expound on them in the language of economic rationalities. It gives Republicans great confidence in something they might otherwise dismiss.”
This strategy, Tomlinson said, proved successful during her tenure as mayor of Columbus, leading the city to be rated one of the 25 Best Run Cities in America.
During her tenure, she continued, crime was reduced by 42 percent, and millions of dollars were saved in the city budget while benefits for city employees increased.
“Many times, I offered the pure progressive solution, but I explained it in their terms,” she said.
That willingness to “eat an elephant bite by bite,” as Tomlinson put it, can allow Georgia to move forward on horn-locked issues such as income inequality and Medicare reform.
“Medicare should be an option, but of those who want private insurance, they can keep that as well,” she said, adding that going from the current state of the medical industry to “Medicare for all” would provide too much of a shock to the system.
Instead, she said, dropping the age of Medicare eligibility to 55 would provide immediate relief for citizens such as law-enforcement officers and public safety workers who are being forced into retirement and high-dollar premiums.
“I want political leaders to be very careful with blanket statements when they say ‘Medicare for all,’” Tomlinson warned. “When they say that’s what they want, you be sure to ask them, ‘How?’”
Echoing Ring’s call for First District Democrats to prioritize organization and representation from all counties, Tomlinson discussed the “rural strategy” popularly implemented by Paul Coverdell in the 1990s.
Rather than following his predecessors’ strategy of campaigning heavily in Atlanta because of the dense population, Coverdell reportedly focused on securing individual votes across rural Georgia, thereby winning a U.S. Senate seat he held from 1993 until his death in 2000.
“That’s what happens to us on election night every single year,” she explained. “They cannot win if we’re willing to go out into the community and shave off the margins.”
After Ring’s vice chairs were introduced, elected officials from the region introduced themselves.
Other candidates in attendance were recognized, including Mac Sims, Democratic candidate for House District 163; Julie Jordan, Democratic candidate for House District 179; and Barbara Seidman, who’s also looking to unseat Carter.
Ring closed with a word of caution.
“I believe that it’s important for us to stay out of the primaries,” she said. “We have to let the candidates speak for themselves. We don’t want to feed the strategy of divide-and-conquer. It’s not about winning. It’s really about making changes to try to help people.”