Clint Brewer Analyzes the Nashville Mayoral Race

Apr 20, 2023

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 recovering journalist Clint Brewer in studio to handicap the Nashville mayoral race and discuss the financial and notoriety of candidates in the growing field.

Leahy: In studio, our good friend Clint Brewer is here in studio and smiling because we’re going to talk about the mayor’s race. And I have to thank you, Clint, for being our ambassador to certain candidates for mayor who wouldn’t normally come on a conservative talk show. We’ve had one on and one that is about to come on.

We’ve had Freddie O’Connell here and I thought he handled himself quite well. And I learned something about Freddie and that is that he’s opposed to the stadium deal and he was one of the 11 who voted against it. So I thought that was very interesting.

And then Jim Gingrich is coming on even though, our first question will be about whether or not he thinks a carpet bagger like him should run for mayor. But he’s a big boy. He can handle it.

Brewer: I think he can.

Leahy: I think he can. Let’s talk about the mayor’s race. Doesn’t seem like everybody is deciding to jump in right now?

Brewer: Yes, it’s a huge field. You’ve got folks that got in early, like Matt Wilshire, the former economic development professional for the city.

Leahy: And Matt has raised like $1.4…

Brewer: $1.8 ish. He’s got a million.

Leahy: If you look at that list of who has. Gingrich’s cash on hand has over $2 million

Brewer: He’s self-funded.

Leahy: 90 percent of that is a loan from himself. And then Wilshire’s got $1.8 million. Right behind. So he’s really raised a lot of money. And then you go down to the next level, which is Freddie with $300,000 and Alice Rolli has $200,000 mostly.

Brewer: Just shy of that.

Leahy: And then a couple of others. But if you look at the field, on our side, independent Fran Bush, no money, independent Natisha Brooks. I didn’t see that she had any money.

Brewer: You’ve got to remember that you’ve got two state senators in there. We haven’t seen their disclosure numbers.

Leahy: They came in a little bit later.

Brewer: They did. And I, everybody’s talking about it being late. Here’s the thing you’ve got to remember, with this many people in the race you got a self-funder in Jim Gingrich. You got somebody who’s really performing well in fundraising with Matt Wilshire. Freddie O’Connell has a ton of name ID and is being competitive from a fundraising standpoint.

Leahy: Competitive, but he’s not in the same financial league as Matt Wilshire or Jim Gingrich.

Brewer: He’s not. And that’s the difference between being up on network TV and not being up on network tv.

Leahy: How much is that going to matter?

Brewer: That’s a great question here. I think it matters more for some candidates than others. Like Jim Gingrich, he’s well known in business circles. A CEO that moved a very big company here but not known to the average voter.

Leahy: You would guess then he’s going to take that $2 million bucks and put a lot of it on TV.

Brewer: He already has. He announced a buy this week.

Leahy: Oh, tell us what?

Brewer: I don’t know the details. I got an email. And then there’s Wilshire who you know, similar issues, more well known than Gingrich, has his own network here in the town of friends and family and longtime supporters. He’s very plugged into the city as a native son of Nashville. But again, not a household name.

And he’s been in public life for a long time, but not a household name. Freddie, I think, can be more competitive with less money because he has been in the news for so long. But then you’ve got the criminal court clerk, Vivian Wilhoite, that’s a countywide position. She’s been on the ballot countywide before.

Brewer: Sorry, she’s a property assessor.

Leahy: She’s been around for a long time, and she has a good name.

Brewer: She does. And then the two sitting state senators and Jeff Yarbro and Heidi Campbell, who have a large piece of Nashville. So with this many people in the race, what you will likely see because we do have a runoff here, is you could very easily have two people in the runoff who get just over 20 percent of the vote just…

Leahy: Right around plus or minus 20 percent.

Brewer: You could have somebody in the, you could have two people competing to be the mayor of Nashville who only got 18 percent or says 21 percent of the vote.

Leahy: Because you like about 10 people in there.

Brewer: Yes, it’s a lot.

Leahy: Back to the state Senate. I do want to mention the two Republicans, Alice Rolli and Natisha Brooks. I didn’t see any money or any financial report from Natisha Brooks. And Alice has loaned herself some money and has about $200,000. At least Alice will be able to have some money for a campaign, but that’s not a lot. And she doesn’t have a name ID in the way the others do.

Brewer: Same set of issues. So I think. What you are going to see with the two folks who make it the runoff are gonna be people who can run a really well-defined race to their base and to their sort of regional market share.

For a Campbell or a Yarbro to make it in, they’ve really got to dominate their senate districts in those precincts. And then they’ve got to make some strategic pickups in other parts of the city.

Leahy: Heidi Campbell, she won narrowly, her state senate race, and now she ran for the 5th Congressional District. She lost 55-45. She didn’t really run a campaign. Didn’t do a lot in terms of campaigning in that 5th Congressional District race. She spent some money. But now she’s running again for mayor. But do people look at her and say, why are you running for another office, Heidi?

Brewer: I think, maybe. But she just ran a race in Davidson County, not for the majority of Davidson County but for a good part of it. She’s just recently been on the ballot. She can capitalize off of that campaigning. And here’s the thing, I think you’re seeing some people throw their hats in the ring “late” because the field’s getting so big. It’s like, why not?

Leahy: Why not? Because all I need to do is get to 20 or 19. Or something like that.

Brewer: Literally, the magic number might be 20. And so you’ve got to ask yourself can I get to 20? Yes, I can get to 20. And you look at the state Senate seats, they may, they could get to 20 just by winning their Senate district. I think there’s there’s a path here for some people that haven’t been doing the race.

Leahy: So in terms of who could get to the runoff, in my mind, it looks like right now the people that have a shot at getting to the runoff would be Gingrich because he can spend a lot of money. Wilshire, he’s got a lot of money. I think Freddie’s got a lane.

Brewer: I do too.

Leahy: You could even have, and then the two state senators.

Brewer: I think them and Vivian Wilhoite.

Leahy: That six.

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 Reporwith 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 “Jim Gingrich” by Jim Gingrich. Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Michael Rivera. CC BY-SA 4.0.