Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer in studio to discuss the announced Nashville mayoral candidates and their possibilities of winning.
Leahy: In studio, all-star panelist, Clint Brewer, who will not run for mayor of Davidson County.
Brewer: Let’s not make anybody think that was a possibility.
Leahy: For anybody in our listening audience, nor will I run for mayor of Nashville, Davidson County, or run for anything ever. A man’s got to know his limitations. From the great Clint Eastwood in the movie Unforgiven. The best line of a movie ever.
Brewer: I think it’s a good line. He said it several times, too.
Leahy: That’s right. Now let’s see who might be out there who thinks that running for mayor might be within their limitations.
Brewer: There’s a long list of potential candidates.
Leahy: The announced candidates are Matt Wilshire, who claims to be kind of a centrist. He’s not. He’s a far lefty. He’s raised a million bucks. Matt, you’re welcome to come on, we’ll talk to you. He rode crew at Dartmouth. We know that. Way back when.
Brewer: I don’t know that he’s far left.
Leahy: Yes, he is.
Brewer: It’s going to be hard to get elected in Nashville, not being a little left. My dealings with Matt, he’s a business guy. He understands public-private partnerships. He’s a legitimate candidate.
Leahy: He does. He’s raised a million bucks. But, Matt, I think you’re far left. Really, you can tell everybody you’re not, but you’re welcome to come in and disabuse me of that notion. That’s me talking, not you Clint Brewer. Just to be clear. Now, also, Freddie O’Connell, now, that’s a far-left guy.
Brewer: Yes, Freddie, I guess my diagnosis of these folks is different. I’m not really judging them based on left or right. I’m judging them on whether they could govern the city. Like Matt, Freddie is also a really smart guy.
Leahy: Freddie is probably a Bernie Sanders guy.
Brewer: Yes. He’s one of the top three. But I’m having a hard time imagining Metro Council functioning without Freddie there because he understands the parliamentary procedure. He understands how to move legislation through. He’s a really smart guy.
Leahy: He’s a Bernie Sanders guy. Freddie, you can come in. He’s a Bernie Sanders guy.
Brewer: Judging by the beard.
Leahy: No, he said he’s a Bernie Sanders guy. But Freddie, you could come in and defend yourself.
Brewer: He really understands the symbiosis between business and development and city and progress.
Leahy: I’m starting to get sick here now when you say that, Clint. But let’s talk about Sharon Hurt.
Brewer: He gets it. Sharon is a longtime leader in Nashville. She runs a very robust nonprofit focused on Jefferson Street.
Leahy: At-large. A nice person.
Brewer: Astute person.
Leahy: Very left winger.
Brewer: Well, you’re not going to get a right-winger Mike.
Leahy: Well, maybe we will Clint. Maybe somebody listening to this program right now.
Brewer: Not somebody who can win.
Leahy: It’s 70/30 right now, wouldn’t you say? It’s a 70/30 breakdown between Democrat-Republican in Davidson County?
Brewer: Yeah, maybe.
Leahy: What do you think its more like?
Leahy: That bad? Okay. Who out there have delusions of grandeur?
Brewer: Delusions of grandeur. Somebody who’s been mentioned frequently in the context of the mayor’s races at-large councilman Bob Mendes.
Leahy: Bob looks in the mirror and sees the future mayor of Nashville.
Brewer: Bob could be a future mayor of Nashville. Bob’s an attorney again. He’s one of those people that actually forces the Metro Council to function and he’s proven himself an able leader.
Leahy: He’s a smart guy. He’s far left.
Brewer: They’re all far left. Let’s just leave that out.
Leahy: I don’t want to leave it out. I don’t like it. (Chuckles)
Brewer: Let’s just start and say they’re all to the left of center and just accept that to debate.
Leahy: Will Bob Mendes jump into the race?
Brewer: I don’t know. It’s an open seat now.
Leahy: It’s always easier to win an open seat, isn’t it?
Brewer: Yes, but I mean, here’s the thing. If I’m, Bob, or anybody who hasn’t announced already and accepted the realities of the job, you are inheriting not one, but two gargantuan and possibly unpopular deals that you either have to kill or cut.
Leahy: Which are those deals?
Brewer: The Titan Stadium.
Leahy: Gargantuan, bad deal. As we’ve talked about.
Brewer: The race track at the fairgrounds. That deal.
Leahy: You also have the problem of unfunded health care benefits for retirees.
Brewer: I’m just talking about the surface stuff. Then you’ve got all of the regular deep problems of the Metro government, from the pension to the school system.
Leahy: Which is terrible. And by the way, the policy of Cooper has been to say, whatever your budget is, we’ll give you that and more and do whatever you want, and we’re not going to hold you accountable.
Brewer: But here’s the thing, and I think the press has a big failing in this city. They keep reporting, Mayor Cooper announces half a million dollars for this and $50 million for that. And nobody ever says, but do we actually have the money?
Leahy: We don’t.
Brewer: It gives this illusion that we just have all this money to spend in Nashville. And I don’t think that’s the case.
Leahy: Since we’re purely speculating.
Brewer: Wait, let me finish.
Leahy: Go ahead.
Brewer: A really smart guy like Bob Mendes is going to know that. And I think if the people who aren’t already in the race, they’ve got to make a decision. Do I want to bite all this off? Because it’s like the Titans thing, the racetrack, it’s lose-lose, right? And you got to say what you’re going to do.
Leahy: Let me throw some names out. Beth Harwell.
Leahy: You don’t think she would run?
Leahy: And if she ran, she wouldn’t win.
Brewer: Are you just trying to find somebody to the ride of center?
Leahy: I’m trying to find somebody.
Brewer: Get your head and heart…
Leahy: I think this is an opportunity for Davison County Republicans to find somebody who’s not a complete lefty. Maybe they have to settle for center-left or maybe center. The center-right might be a little bit too far to go here in Davidson County. But before we get to the speculation game with throwing names out, which is always fun, what would a newcomer to this race need in terms of money to run for mayor?
Brewer: With an open seat, I think the table stakes to get to a run-off is $2.5, $3 million.
Leahy: I think $3 to $5 million, ultimately.
Brewer: Ultimately is what you need. That’s getting to a run-off and finishing, maybe losing, maybe not.
Leahy: And you can’t raise three to $5 million from a cold start. You kind of have to have that.
Brewer: You’ve got to have some of it. To jump in at this point, yes. And that’s really talking about competing with the top tier of the candidates in terms of fundraising. Can somebody run an insurgent campaign from the back?
Leahy: And catch 10 percent?
Brewer: I think that would have happened. Look, Matt Wiltshire is clearly leading. He’s got the organization.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Freddie O’Connell” by Freddie O’Connell. Photo “Sharon Hunt” by Sharon Hunt. Photo “Matt Wiltshire” by Matt Wiltshire. Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.