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Campaign Faux Pas in the Mayor's Race

Campaign Faux Pas in the Mayor's Race

A recap of some of this year's campaign blunders.

Early voting is officially underway in Nashville. Now that things are getting serious, we thought we’d lighten the mood and go through this cycle’s biggest campaign blunders.

FREDDIE O’CONNELL STANS After learning their candidate finished out Q2 with $420,000 cash on hand, Freddie Fanatics took note of the dank number and ran with it. An ActBlue account called “Freddie 420” was set up with donation options of $4.20, $42.69, $69, and $420.69. It raised $1,076.27—a less suggestive number than desired, we’re certain. The 420 memes are fitting, considering O’Connell has backed legislation reducing the penalty for possession of the Devil’s Lettuce (though he did stand for banning smoking in Nashville). Still, we couldn’t help but cringe at grown adults donating $420.69 to a political campaign.

HEIDI CAMPBELL “In my twenties, our band toured the world. It was my job to keep us in the pocket,” opens Heidi Campbell during her campaign commercial, titled Out of Tune. Admittedly, we didn’t know about Campbell’s past as a musician until she mentioned it this campaign cycle, but that wasn’t all that stuck out to us. Her new ad, phrasing and all, sounds a lot like Stephanie Johnson’s entire mayoral platform. Though Johnson is a less prominent candidate, her slogan has always been “Music City is Out of Tune.” 

“I'm becoming the Mayor of Nashville to get Music City in tune by balancing our schools, safety, housing, and infrastructure,” states the landing page of Johnson’s website. “From the west to the east, the music will play again.”

Compare to Campbell’s ad script: “Right now, Nashville is out of tune. We need a mayor who will get things sounding right. I’ll take on crime, make our city affordable, and pick up the damn trash. I’m Senator Heidi Campbell, and I know how to get Music City back in tune.” 

Now, we’re not suggesting that the music-related theme isn’t completely predictable for a Nashville race; there’s a possibility that this was an oversight. However, the similarities are pretty glaring. We reached out to Johnson’s campaign last week to ask whether she knew of Campbell’s ad and supports it or Heidi Campbell. As of this writing, we haven’t heard back.

JIM GINGRICH The “problem solver, not politician” made an appearance at TNGOP’s annual Statesmen's Dinner on Saturday evening. Though it makes perfect sense for a candidate to pop into a local, political event—especially an independent candidate with all-over-the-map policy solutions— Twitter did not take kindly to his attendance. The pearl clutching seems to have originated from his campaign’s messaging, which touts his outsider status and refusal to play politics. For some reason, this means he is not allowed to schmooze with the dark side

“Yeah working across the aisle is fine but I draw the line at giving money to a GOP organization,” tweeted local government obsessive @startleseasily. The same user, who won a Scene award for her frenetic tweeting in 2021, also slammed Matt Wiltshire for attending a GOP forum with fellow candidates Alice Rolli, Jim Gingrich, & Natisha Brooks in June.

One wonders how the occasional “Pith In The Wind” columnist would feel about Freddie O’Connell showing up to the Nashville Conservatives breakfast back in May? (It was a good show of bipartisanship, and at least the progressive’s progressive was honest, remarking: “The best thing you can do after today if you're thinking of voting for me is not telling anybody.”)

GOVERNOR LEE Speaking of who did and didn’t show up to the Statesmen's Dinner, Governor Lee was noticeably absent. That being said, on Thursday, his office announced that he made 20 appointments to his recently created Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council. The board, created to advance safe, clean, and reliable nuclear energy in the pursuit of energy independence, also includes legislative representatives appointed by the speakers of both the Tennessee House and Senate. Lieutenant Governor McNally appointed Senator Ken Yager, and Speaker Sexton appointed Representative Clark Boyd.

SPECIAL SESSION In other news, state lawmakers have continued meeting with the governor to discuss the upcoming special session. Lee is still encouraging Tennesseans to submit what they’d like to see when the legislature finally meets on August 21st.

While the focus of the session was initially announced as an effort “to strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights,” it's still unclear what bills will be brought to the table. Over the summer, we’ve seen pushback regarding red flag laws from entities such as The Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition, as well as calls to prayerfully reconsider whether there is even a need to convene in August from Representative Jody Barrett and others.

While Democrats are still decrying Tennessee as a “murder state” without enough gun laws, we expect to see mental health as the main focus of the bills that ultimately surface.