NAACP Leader Criticizes Senate Hopeful for Record With Black Community

Tomlinson called 'completely out of touch' with African Americans while mayor of Columbus

Senate hopeful Teresa Tomlinson (D.) is facing criticism for being "completely out of touch with the African American community" at times of her two terms as mayor of Columbus, Georgia.

Tomlinson served as mayor of Georgia's third-largest city from 2011 to 2019, and a Mother Jones profile delved into her background as a former Republican now pitching herself to the state as a "pragmatic progressive." Tomlinson hopes to win the nomination and get the opportunity to unseat Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), who is seeking a second term in 2020.

Nathaniel Sanderson, who served as president of Georgia's branch of the NAACP while Tomlinson was mayor, described himself as conservative but wanting to vote for Tomlinson. However, he said her record with African Americans and taking their community's views into account while working on city projects was mixed:

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Not everyone lauded her work. Tomlinson at times sparred with members of Columbus’ African American community—nearly half of Columbus residents are black—some of whom felt that her revitalization plans excluded them. When city officials wanted to restore a historic black entertainment district, for example, they didn’t take into account a redevelopment plan put forward by a group of black leaders. (Because of that dispute, the city ultimately decided to pull out, and that land is still dormant.) "The initiatives she put forth to revitalize downtown Columbus were marvelous, but the same was needed for the black community," says Nathaniel Sanderson, who served as president of the Georgia branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People while Tomlinson was mayor. "The only thing young black kids have to do here is play midnight basketball."

Edward O. DuBose worked with Sanderson and sits on the NAACP's national board of directors, and he said Tomlinson at times was "completely out of touch with the African American community." He told Mother Jones "she would have some explaining to do" to gain his vote, questioning her ability to reach black voters across the state.

Tomlinson has touted a drop in crime, developing the city's alternate transportation system, and budget reform as her chief accomplishments in office.

Tomlinson declared her Senate candidacy on May 1, one day after 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams announced she wouldn't run for the Senate seat.