Monday, March 13, 2023

Who's Running for Mayor, who's not, and who's a maybe. (updated 3/12/2023)

by Rod Williams, March 11, 2023 - The race for Nashville mayor is getting more crowded as more people jump into the race. Also, it is getting clearer who the field of candidates may be as some people who were mentioned as potential candidates let it be known they are not running. Also, however, there are still some people waiting in the wings who may or may not jump in the race. Some of these are big names.  

There is one declared candidate who is a Republican and several potential Republican candidates on the sidelines. Is it possible that a Republican could be elected mayor of Nashville? I think so. The election for mayor is a non-partisan election and one does not run on party labels. A person who is perceived as capable and runs a good campaign, I think could win.  You may recall that David Fox running against Megan Barry won 45% of the vote. 

 A bombastic Trumpinista could probably not get elected but I think a moderate Republican could.   Nashville is predominately Democrat but some parts of the county, such as the more rural districts on the outer ring of the county and Donelson, often vote Republican. Also, some of the Democrats are old school Democrats and not progressives. Many woke progressives would never vote for a Republican but many other Democrat voters would, I think, vote for the person they perceive as best candidate regardless of party identification.  Also, some voters may decide it is time to stop poking the bear and elect someone as mayor who would stop picking fights with the State.

There is a bill pending in the State legislature that may abolish the run-off for the mayor's election.  If that passes, then certainly the chances for a Republican to be elected mayor of Nashville improves. With several Democrats in the race splitting the Democrat vote, a Republican could, I think, be elected. We should know the status of that bill next week.  If it passes, look for a big-name Republican to jump in the race. 

The filing deadline for the Aug. 3 election is on May 18.  Here is what we know at this point.

Who is running for Mayor:

Alice Rolli 
Alice Rolli

Alice Rolli served as an assistant commissioner of strategy for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development under Haslam. She served as campaign manager for Sen. Lamar Alexander. She is president of growth at Possip, a Nashville-based software company that provides tools for schools to gather feedback from parents. She is a neighborhood activist, formerly serving on the Board of Edgehill Village Neighborhood Association. She led the effort to prevent development around Fort Negley in 2017. (link)

Natisha Brooks

Natisha Brooks

Natisha Brooks is a Republican and ran in the Republican fifth district congressional primary in August 2022. She is a former educator and has described herself as a "Christian conservative constitutionalist." She has said she will focus on increasing funding and resources for mental health initiatives and police. According to Ballopedia she attended Prarie View A&M University. As of 2020, she operated The Brooks Academy, a home-schooling institution. (more)

Fran Bush

Fran Bush

Fran Bush served on the School Board from 2018 through 2022 as District 6 board member and was a voice of reason and sanity. See, "Fran Bush, "Our district is falling apart and we are doing nothing."'  She was by far my favorite Board member during her tenure. After the State legislature made school board races partisan, Bush ran as an independent and lost badly to school board member Cheryl Mayes. For more see link, link, and link.


Jim Gingrich
Jim Gingrich 

Jim Gingrich was AllianceBernstein Chief Operating Officer and oversaw the asset management company's move to Nashville. He says affordable housing, poor infrastructure, underfunded schools, crime and increased traffic are the largest issues facing Nashville. See "Jim Gingrich, former AllianceBernstein COO, exploring campaign for mayor."  (Jim Gingrich for Nashville) (more)

Sharon Hurt

Sharon Hurt

Sharon Hurt has served as an at-large member of Nashville's council
since 2015. Hurt holds a bachelor's degree from Tennessee State University and an M.A. in nonprofit leadership from Belmont University. Hurt was president and CEO of Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership (JUMP) for 23 years before retiring last fall. See Sharon for Nashville and more

Freddie O'Connell 

Freddie O'Connell is council member for District 19 which is the downtown area and city's most populous and fastest-growing district. I seldom agree with him about anything, but O'Connell works hard and knows the issues. 

Freddie O'Connell 
According to Ballotpedia: "He received a bachelor's degree from Brown University. His professional experience includes working as a software developer at Rustici Software. Other experience includes serving as president of the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association, board member of the Nashville MTA and member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. He was a co-host of a public affairs radio program from 2005 to 2010." See Freddie O'Connell, mayor Nashville, and more

Matt Wiltshire

Matt Wiltshire

Matt Wiltshire served as economic development director under three different mayors and served as a public-private partnership coordinator for the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency. At MDHA, his work included coordination with Nashville's Barnes Housing Trust Fund and assistance with the redevelopment and expansion of six low-income housing sites.

See Matt Wiltshire for Mayor and more

Jeff Yarbro

Jeff Yarbro

Jeff Yarbro has served as a Democratic state Senator representing parts of Nashville since 2014, and previously served as Senate minority leader.  He works as an attorney at Bass, Berry & Sims law firm. See Jeff Yarbro for Mayor

These are not yet in but may jump in:

Beth Harwell

Tara Scarlett
Beth Harwell is well known in Nashville, formerly representing a part of this city in the state legislature. She "is a member of the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. She served as State Representative for Nashville and is a former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party. First elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1988, Harwell served as a Republican Minority Whip and Commerce Committee chair before being elected to the Speakership. She is the first woman to serve as Tennessee's Speaker of the House. In 2017, she announced her candidacy for governor of Tennessee in the 2018 election. (link)" If the law is changed to avoid a runoff, she is likely to run.

Tara Scarlett CEO of Scarlett  Foundation. She is a Republican. She is the daughter of Joe Scarlett former Tractor Supply Company President and Chairman. Link

Vivian Wilhoite Assesor of property who served 8 years in the Metro Council at one time said she was considering running for Mayor but has not said much about it recently.

Odessa Kelly
Odessa Kelly is a vocal high profile progressive activist who had previously expressed interest in running for Mayor.  In 2020 she was mentioned as a progressive challenger to Representative Jim Cooper before Cooper was districted out of office. She did run as the Democrat against Mark Green in the 7th Congressional District. If she runs, I do not think she could win, but she would be the favorite candidate of the younger and more radical elements of the electorate. She would probably take away votes from other progressives like Freddie O'Connell and open a lane for a Republican or more moderate Democrat. 

Heidi Campbell
Bob Mendes is an at-large member of the Metro Council having served as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee and the East Bank Stadium Committee. 

Bob Freeman is a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, representing District 56 and the son of Bill Freeman. 

Heidi Campbell former mayor of Oak Hill, is a member of the Tennessee State Senate, representing District 20. In 2022 she unsuccessfully ran for Tennessee's 5th Congressional District. Campbell has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University. Her career experience includes working as an executive in the music industry and owning a business.

People who were once considered candidates but are not running.

Mayor John Cooper

Bill Freeman, former candidate for mayor and other offices, big contributor to Democrat candidates, former partner of Freeman-Webb and publisher of the Nashville Sence and other publications is not running. Apparently, he has some health issues taking him out of the race. 

Former disgraced Mayor Megan Barry.

David Fox, former candidate for mayor who ran against Megan Barry and did well getting 45% of the vote in a runoff. He is a Republican.

Carol Swain, author, former Vanderbilt professor, national conservative pundit. She ran against cooper in 2020. 

Steve Smith, Broadway business owner, who early took out ads against Cooper. (link)

Hal Cato, Thistle Farms CEO was mentioned as a candidate early on. I don't know if he is still a potential candidate or not. 

Quincy McKnight who was a Republican candidate for Tennessee's 5th Congressional district before withdrawing in 2022 and saying he would run for mayor has moved to Florida so will not be a candidate. Thank goodness. 

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