Clint Brewer: The Nashville Mayoral Race Is Shaping Up to Be Very Competitive and Interesting

Apr 13, 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 examine the widening field of Nashville mayoral candidates.

Leahy: We are talking politics with Clint Brewer. Clint, a recovering journalist, all-around good guy, and our all-star panelist, let’s talk about the mayor’s race. Interestingly enough, we’ve had four of the candidates in studio with us.

Alice Rolli, who’s a Republican and has been in studio. Natisha Brooks, a Republican, and Fran Bush an Independent, former school board member. And then yesterday, we had Freddie O’Connell.

Brewer: Councilman O’Connell.

Leahy: And I corrected the record with him. I’d said incorrectly that he was a left-wing Bernie Sanders supporter and he corrected me on air and I retracted that. And I asked him, who do you support? And he said, Elizabeth Warren. (Laughs) But having said that, I thought Freddie handled himself quite well.

Brewer: Freddie O’Connell is an incredibly intelligent and thoughtful public servant. He is very progressive.

Leahy: He’s an Elizabeth Warren supporter.

Brewer: But you know what? He represents downtown and he is also very pro-business in a positive way. His support has enabled a lot of investment downtown, and a lot of job growth. He’s the real deal. I think the only question is he going to have the resources to make it into a runoff.

Leahy: He told me he’s got $300,000 in cash right now.

Brewer: Which is respectable.

Leahy: He’s raised over $400,000. He also said, much to my surprise that he opposes the Titans Stadium deal.

Brewer: There’s a growing number of folks in that mill.

Leahy: And that’s been our position here for a long time.

Brewer: I think Jim Gingrich who’s turning into an interesting candidate.

Leahy: You mean Carpetbagger Jim?

Brewer: He just parked $2 million of his own money in his campaign account, and he was out against the stadium before anyone else was.

Leahy: Jim, you’re a carpet bagger, but you’re welcome to come in and explain your candidacy and that $2 million. I don’t think you’ll come. Freddie came in even though I had previously referred to him as a left-wing Bernie Sanders supporter incorrectly because he’s an Elizabeth Warren supporter.

Brewer: Shades of Gray.

Leahy: And I think Jim is probably a little intimidated to come on the program because I’ve called him accurately a carpet bagger.

Brewer: Jim’s a pretty forthright guy.

Leahy: I don’t think he’ll come in.

Brewer: He might.

Leahy: And we will ask him, Jim, are you a carpet bagger by any definition because you’ve lived here at least three years, right? Three and a half, maybe.

Brewer: I don’t know what the line of demarcation is. How long do you have to live here before that’s a possiblity?

Leahy: I will say it’s a subjective thing. The Tennessee State Legislature said it’s three years, right?

Brewer: The carpet bagger law?

Leahy: They said it’s three years, although that’s not been tested in court.

Brewer: At this point, I’m more concerned about people coming here from California than I am about people coming here from up north.

Leahy: I’m concerned equally about both. But anyways, so let’s talk about that. So in terms of the race, I think Freddie O’Connell, by coming on this program yesterday and performing well and demonstrating that he’s a very intelligent, thoughtful guy, even though he’s progressive on the left, I think he served his campaign well because 30 percent of the voters in Davidson County, listen to this program. Seventy percent don’t, or they hate listening. (Chuckles)

Brewer: No. Look, Freddie is a real candidate. He is a player in this race. He is I honestly, as an observer of Metro politics, as somebody who has been a participant in the Metro political process on behalf of clients I have a hard time imagining a functional Metro government without Freddie O’Connell being in it.

Leahy: Functional is a keyword.

Brewer: He’s a very good parliamentarian. He understands how the council works. He understands how the budget works. He understands how the departments work and you just, there’s not that a lot of that expertise.

Leahy: He’s got a business background. He’s a software developer. He’s got a real job actually, which is good, and a career other than this. So we have an open invitation to all of the mayoral candidates.

Jim Gingrich who’s lived here for at least three years and by my definition is a carpet bagger. But he’s put $2 million bucks into his campaign and that makes him a player.

Brewer: Yes, it does. That’s probably table stakes to get into the runoff. Matt Wilshire is raising money at a remarkably strong clip.

Leahy: Last I heard, he was at a million and a half. Is he over that?

Brewer: Yes, I think so. I think he’s closing on two. And it’s not all about money. You got to have a message, a ground game, and a network.

Leahy: So, in terms of the top tier, right?

Brewer: Vivian Wilhoite entering the race is a game changer.

Leahy: Has she entered the race?

Brewer: She has entered the race.

Leahy: Tell us about Vivian because I’ve not heard.

Brewer: She is the criminal court clerk, I believe. She has a courthouse position. I’m mentally blanking. Maybe you can look it up. But she is a very strong politician.

Leahy: She’s the assessor.

Brewer: Thank you. Thank you.

Leahy: A native of Gulfport, Mississippi.

Brewer: Yes. Longtime politico in Nashville. Very strong politically and there’s a large black vote in Nashville.

Leahy: She’s been the assessor of property since 2016. Before that, she was with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. Her employment has been from since 1987 to 2016. And then, she was with Metro City Council from 2003 to 2011. I think these are qualifications.

Brewer: Yes. She’s a very strong candidate and now we have another state senator in the race.

Leahy: Which one? Oh, Heidi?

Brewer: Heidi Campbell and Jeff Yarbro. We got two state senators. The assessor property. So we got three people who are already in the state and the county. Not quite a countywide office for the senators, but pretty close. We got somebody in the countywide office. I would argue that Freddie is the most prominent district council member.

And we’ve got Jim Gingrich, former CEO and, and a self-funder for business community candidate. And we got Matt Wilshire who’s a favorite son in Nashville and has been a public servant for a long time. He has a business background, grew up here, and has deep ties, obviously by his fundraising. It is shaping up to be a very competitive, interesting race.

Leahy: We got we’ve already got like 10 people there.

Brewer: More than 10. We could field a softball team.

Leahy: And isn’t Joe Scarlett’s daughter going to run?

Brewer: I believe Axios reported yesterday that she is not.

Leahy: She’s not gonna run.

Brewer: Tara Scarlett.

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 “Nashville City Hall” by Luckiewiki. CC BY-SA 4.0.