Political Consultant Chris Walker: The Current Field of Nashville Mayoral Candidates Is Weak; Baxter Lee ‘Would Be a Very Good Candidate’

Political Consultant Chris Walker: The Current Field of Nashville Mayoral Candidates Is Weak; Baxter Lee ‘Would Be a Very Good Candidate’

Live from Music Row, Tuesday 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 political consultant Chris Walker and all-star panelist Aaron Gulbransen in studio to discuss the myriad of weak candidates who have announced their run for mayor of Nashville and recommended those that should.

Leahy: In studio, Chris Walker, political consultant, and Aaron Gulbransen, the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report. I need some advice. I have a term I want to bring back.

I think it’s appropriate, but Chris and I want to get both of you to respond to this. You remember in our coverage of the 5th Congressional District primary, there was a term we used to good effect on a couple of candidates called carpet bagger. Remember that term carpet bagger? That’s somebody who’s not from a particular area.

Gulbransen: Which all of those candidates loved being seeing that in every article.

Walker: I think I’m going to get some text messages from this one. We’ll see.

Gulbransen: To all of you who I’ve given PTSD during that congressional race, for all my reporting on that, I apologize for absolutely nothing.

Leahy: Yes, you were the guy writing the story, but we made sure that for a couple of candidates who had only recently arrived in Tennessee, the term carpet bagger was appropriate.

And, of course, historically, that’s a term for Yankees who came down after the Civil War carrying all their goods in a carpet bag.  And then got rich by exploiting the locals right after the Civil War. It’s not a term of endearment.

Walker: It is not.

Leahy: I think I may have to bring that term back for the mayoral race because there is a carpet bagger on the loose.

Walker: Who?

Leahy: Jim Gingrich.

Walker: Alliance Bernstein.

Leahy: He’s lived here for at least three years. Came from New York City, got at least $17 million of state and local tax incentives to move Alliance Bernstein, the hedge fund management company here.

The very first thing they did is they went up to the state Capitol and said, we don’t like what you’re doing in LGBTQ legislation. You got to change that. Nothing says gratitude like, give me the money, and let me tell you what to do. So, Jim Gingrich, I think, is a carpet bagger. Should I bring that term back, Chris Walker?

Walker: I think the mayor’s race is something that is very worthy of similar coverage as the 5th Congressional District.

Leahy: This guy is good. That’s a very measured response. Aaron Gulbransen, who used the term carpet bagger to good effect in the Fifth Congressional District GOP primary race, should I bring back the term carpet beggar for Jim Gingrich?

Gulbransen: The short answer is yes, as I sit here wearing a New York Mets hat. (Laughter)

Leahy: You are a native of New York, but you haven’t come here to run for office.

Gulbransen: That’s true.

Leahy: So I think it’s fair to call Jim Gingrich a carpet bagger. Jim, you’re running for mayor. I have a seat here. It says carpet bagger on it, and you’re welcome to sit in it and face the music.

Walker: I think he should.

Leahy: Now, TC Weber, our education reporter, was in here. Yesterday. We talked about the mayoral race, and I said, you know, TC, I don’t think we have a good candidate out there for mayor yet. Do you agree? He said, 100 percent, I agree. It’s a very weak, weak field; it seems to me.

Walker: I agree.

Leahy: But Chris, you’re a political professional. Is there an opportunity for conservatives here in Davidson County to find a candidate who could win? Because the base here in Davidson County is about 25 percent, maybe.

Walker: I would say 35 percent?

Leahy: Twenty-five percent would be the base that’s conservative. And to get to the runoff, you probably have to have at least 35 percent. The runoff is scheduled for August 3rd. But to win, you got to have 50 percent plus one.

Walker: That’s right.

Leahy: So that means you got to get the conservative base and the Independents or the center-left. I’ve looked at the field. They look pretty bad. Nobody fits that category, as far as I can tell.

Walker: There’s no conservative Republican in the race right now. The problem is, if you say you’re a conservative Republican, how do you get that extra 15 percent in a runoff? You don’t want the David Fox problem where you ran a good primary and then you lose to Megan Barry because you can’t get the other 15 percent to vote for you.

Personally, he’s going to kill me for saying this, but I’m going to say it anyway. I think Baxter Lee would be a very good candidate for somebody like that. I think Baxter has a very solid conservative record. I think he has a solid business record.

I think the Republicans and conservative activists in the county know him. But I think the problem would be how do you win a majority in a runoff and in a blue county like Davidson County? That is the question that we’ve got to answer.

Leahy: Aaron Gulbransen, what do you think? You covered the 5th Congressional District GOP primary race. Baxter announced his candidacy. He didn’t qualify on three out of four voting to be in the primary.

When the Executive Committee said, you’re not qualified to three candidates, two of them basically got involved in various levels of lawsuits, which they lost. Baxter Lee looked at the tea leaves, read them well, I thought, and graciously said, I’m not going to fight him.

Gulbransen: He handled himself like a true Southern gentleman. Baxter Lee is somebody I like so much that I wish I could have a quick two-minute conversation with right now before saying anything and go, okay.

What’s the most helpful to you? Should I trash you and go, wink, wink, or should I praise you? To the Nashville voters, Baxter Lee is, wink, an awful moderate candidate. Wink. In all seriousness, he’s a great guy.

Walker: He’s a great guy.

Leahy: Our listeners are that conservative base in Nashville, right? We are the dominant morning program for the active, engaged conservatives in Davidson County. That’s 35 percent. Honestly, maybe some of that 15 percent also listen, but probably not because they listen to NPR or something else.

Gulbransen: To the Democrat trackers out there that are listening to the show or will listen to the show later on, Baxter Lee will portray Republican principles. Wink!

Walker: Nashville has a lot of problems, right? What is that 15 percent really going to vote on? Is it schools? We have leadership here in Davidson County that would shut down schools again in a heartbeat if they could.

Leahy: They want to!

Walker: Yes. They want to put masks back on kids. They want to do all these things. We’ve seen the results of what’s happened from a lot of the public education that’s going on in Davidson County right now. We have a crime problem that’s continuing to grow in the city. We have a job problem right now where we’re trying to figure out how do you continue to bring good jobs to the city with a city council that seems willing to kind of push anyone away who they disagree with.

So there are a lot of big issues. Can that 15 percent actually listen to someone who is a center-right person and say, I have solutions here. We saw it happen in Miami. We’ve seen it happen in Charlotte in the past. We’ve seen it happen in Dallas, even.

Can Nashville be a city that says, hey, we’re going to set aside partisan ideology here? Like, who’s the best leader? I think that’s something that can be done here, and it should be done because ultimately that’s the best way to get Nashville moving in the right direction.

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 “Chris Walker” by Chris Walker. Photo “Baxter Lee” by Baxter Lee. Background Photo “Davidson County Courthouse” by Luckiewiki. CC BY-SA 4.0.