Nashville Mayoral Candidate Freddie O’Connell Opposes Titans Stadium Deal

Apr 12, 2023

Live from Music Row, Wednesday 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 Nashville mayoral candidate Freddie O’Connell in studio to comment on the expulsion of Justin Jones, Metro City Council’s vote to put him back in, and what makes him a good choice for Nashville mayor.

Leahy: Mayoral candidate Freddie O’Connell in studio, having a fun time with Freddie. Different points of view here.

O’Connell: It’s good stuff.

Leahy: Freddie, let’s talk about the Justin Jones situation.

O’Connell: Sure.

Leahy: He broke the rules of the House and he was expelled. And then it went back to Metro Council. According to the state Constitution, you may select an interim successor to the replaced state legislator. Now, this is a guy who is basically called virtually every Republican there a racist, called the Speaker of the House an enemy of democracy, and called State Representative Kumar, who’s Indian-American, the brown face of white supremacy.

Because your relations with the state and Metro Council are so good (O’Connell chuckles) that it would be a good idea to unanimously vote to put him back in. Do you think that was a good idea to just throw the middle finger at the Tennessee House of Representatives? You voted yes to putting him back in?

O’Connell: I did, and I’ll tell you, I do think that this was another example of overreach by the state of Tennessee. I had a colleague, Delicia Porterfield, who was in the Democratic primary with Justin Jones when they ran in State House District 52. When she stood up and nominated him, I thought, okay, this is a sign of how much unity there is and that his primary opponent is saying on behalf of not just her council district, but the State House district that they share that the voters of that district said, hey, we want Justin Jones.

I don’t think they were expecting him to get expelled. I think in the matter of this, Michael, I will say I, the reason that they disrupted the House, and we’ve seen this happen in Metro Council. When people get very passionate about something, sometimes the process gets disrupted. We had a moment where just recently when the vice mayor had to gavel us into recess. But I don’t think anybody was going to get expelled for that behavior.

Leahy: So you think it’s okay for him to break the rules of the House, basically? And he was up there shouting, chanting, and encouraging the rioters to come into the chamber. You thought that was okay?

O’Connell: I will say, I would stop short of saying they were rioters because I was out there myself in person. I was outside the Capitol that day and I was with a lot of young people, and I don’t think they were looking to destroy property.

Leahy: Inside they were trying to get into the chamber and your buddy Justin Jones was there and encouraging them.

O’Connell: And so that part, even without saying hey, he was right to do it, you can say what are the tools to discipline? You can be stripped of committee assignments; you can be censured.

There are a lot of things you can do and I think it caught a lot of people including many people in Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis by surprise that they chose to go straight at expulsion from the bottom.

Leahy: It didn’t surprise me one bit because, really the first time in 227 years of the Tennessee General Assembly that somebody took over the House with a bullhorn and basically encouraged people to riot. That’s the first time in Tennessee state history.

O’Connell: And if you think about the reasons why, it’s also the first time in Nashville history that we had somebody enter a school with the expressed intent of killing children.

Leahy: But these are different stories, and you’re doing the lefty thing of conflating.

O’Connell: They’re not different stories.

Leahy: They’re totally different.

O’Connell: The reason he did it was to try to, no, that’s no.

Leahy: The reason he did it is because he’s a con man, right? He’s a self-promoting con man. You know that’s true.

O’Connell: I can’t ascribe motives to him. I know that what he was talking about was something that was of urgency.

Leahy: You just conflated the murder. You conflated the murder, Freddie, of six Christians…

O’Connell: I didn’t.

Leahy: By a transgender nut. These are totally different topics.

O’Connell: These are not different topics. They go straight from one to the next, and that’s, they don’t go straight from one to the next. They do.

Leahy: But let’s go back to this. Were you surprised Monday, because we knew this would be fun, when the Tennessee House of Representatives, when you basically Metro Council, threw them the middle finger and said, we’re putting this guy back and they caved and let him back in?

O’Connell: I’ll say this. I was surprised by so many different events along the way. One, I was a little surprised that they chose to go straight to expulsion. I was also surprised that evening on Thursday when first Representative Jones got expelled. Then Representative Johnson does not get expelled by one vote, and then Representative Pearson also gets expelled. I thought that sequence of events was surprising.

Leahy: Do you think it was racist? Yes or no?

O’Connell: I can’t speak to it.

Leahy: Gloria Johnson, right after she wasn’t expelled, called the Tennessee House of Representatives racist. Do you agree with her? Yes or no?

O’Connell: I’m not gonna sit here and say, (Chuckles) I’ll say this. It’s not a fantastic look to have two out of three members expelled. I still don’t understand the reasons why they did it.

Leahy: They broke the rules of the House. It’s pretty clear to me.

O’Connell: So did Representative Johnson.

Leahy: The argument that seven stupid Republicans fell for is that she broke them less, but she should be expelled too.

O’Connell: So there you go. I’ll say this, I was surprised to discover because I don’t, I will say that I don’t know if Speaker Sexton, I don’t know if other members of the House Republican Caucus knew upon expulsion, it would then fall to the Metro Council.

Leahy: They knew it.

O’Connell: Did they?

Leahy: They knew it. You acted very quickly. You were on your game, and you threw them the middle finger and said, put this guy back in. Were you surprised they caved and let him back in?

O’Connell: I don’t know. Again, this is me not knowing the rules and procedures of the State House or State Legislature as much. I don’t know if they could have legally blocked it. Maybe they could have.

Leahy: So let’s say they could have legally blocked it. They had many reasons not to because the Constitution says you can re-appoint an interim successor to the replaced state legislator, which means another person.

There are plenty of meritorious legal arguments against it. What would the Metro Council have done if they’d said, we’re not seeing this guy because he’s not eligible, what would the Metro Council have done?

O’Connell: I really have no idea.

Leahy: Oh, come on.

O’Connell: I don’t know. Metro Legal does not work for Metro Council. The Legal Department of Metro may have filed suit. I have no idea what would’ve happened after that.

Leahy: We’ve talked about Justin Jones enough. Let’s talk about your campaign. What are you gonna do? Why are you, Freddie O’Connell going to be a great mayor for Nashville? How are you going to be different from all the other candidates?

O’Connell: There are a couple of reasons. One, I think it’s important, and this is, look, I’m not here necessarily to convince you to vote for me, but I do want you and your listeners to understand that good governance is something that matters to everybody. This is one of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed bipartisan support the entire time I’ve been in office.

In fact, it might surprise you and some of your listeners to know that I got an interesting phone call at one point a few years ago during the property tax discussion where I submitted a budget that had the lowest property tax increase of anybody thereafter.

I’ve looked to try to get ahead of conversations about the growth of government in Nashville to make sure that we’re doing things in a way that is authentically fiscally responsible. But that’s one of the reasons right now in Nashville; the thing we need to be doing as a city is not focusing on $4 billion opportunities for our destination economy in the form of a stadium that’ll result in the largest public…

Leahy: Oh, hold just a minute. Are you opposing the stadium?

O’Connell: Yes, I am.

Leahy: Oh, I love that. Folks, Freddie O’Connell, is opposing the subsidy to the NFL stadium.

O’Connell: The largest public subsidy in the history of the NFL.

Leahy: Did you think that you and I would agree on something so important?

O’Connell: I am here to tell you that I have found points of agreement and common ground with people that you would not expect. (Leahy laughs) I’ve had good conversations.

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.