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O’Connell, Rolli running in Sept. 14 runoff election for mayor of Nashville

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Freddie O’Connell and Alice Rolli are running in the Sept. 14 runoff election for mayor of Nashville, Tennessee. O’Connell finished first and Rolli finished second from a field of 12 candidates in the city’s nonpartisan general election on Aug. 3.

Although municipal elections in Nashville are officially nonpartisan, both candidates have political affiliations. O’Connell, who represented District 19 on the Nashville Metro Council, is a Democrat. Rolli, a former political strategist who was a staffer for Govs. Bill Haslam (R) and Lamar Alexander (R), is a Republican.

O’Connell received 27% of the vote in the general election. Axios Nashville‘s Nate Rau wrote that O’Connell “overcame substantial campaign disadvantages to storm into first place in a crowded general election field … he sold voters on a progressive vision for the city and highlighted his vote against the $2.1 billion Titans stadium deal as proof of his commitment to controlling development growth.” Before the general election, O’Connell told The Tennessean that his top priorities were improving basic governmental service such as trash pickup and filling potholes, building a better transportation network, and improving the trust residents have in city government.

Rolli received 20% of the vote in the first round of voting. Axios Nashville‘s Rau wrote that Rolli “campaigned on addressing crime, keeping taxes low and pressing Metro Nashville Public Schools for improvement. She sold voters on her conservative bona fides by touting her resume.” Before the general election, Rolli told The Tennessean that her top priorities were to ensure that all first graders in the city could read, improving public safety, not increasing taxes, and building a better relationship with the state to address regional issues such as transit and homelessness.

Matt Wiltshire, who finished third in the general election with 17% of the vote, endorsed O’Connell on Aug. 14. State Sens. Jeff Yarbro (D) and Heidi Campbell (D) – who finished fourth and fifth, respectively – endorsed O’Connell on Aug. 9 and 10. Former Nashville school board member Fran Bush, who finished 11th in the general election, endorsed Rolli on Aug. 10.

After reviewing voting data from the general election, The Tennessean‘s Cassandra Stephenson wrote that “O’Connell-won precincts largely correlate to Davidson County’s most populated districts” and “Rolli brought in the most votes in…areas that have historically netted support for candidates with conservative policy views.” Stephenson also wrote that the “O’Connell-Rolli matchup mirrors the 2015 race between Megan Barry and David Fox (who now serves as Rolli’s treasurer and campaign manager).” That year, Barry received 23.5% and Fox received 22.8% in the general election from a seven-candidate field. Barry defeated Fox in the runoff, 55% to 45%.

Incumbent Mayor John Cooper (D) did not seek re-election, making him the first Nashville mayor who served a full term in office to not seek re-election since 1991.

After the runoff winner takes office, Nashville will have its fourth mayor in five years. Megan Barry resigned in March 2018 after pleading guilty to felony theft of property. After Barry’s resignation, Vice Mayor David Briley assumed office and won a special election to retain the office in August 2018. In the 2019 regular mayoral election, Cooper defeated Briley.

Nashville has a strong mayor government, where the mayor serves as chief executive and the city council operates as a legislative branch. The responsibilities of the mayor include proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors, and overseeing the city’s day-to-day operations.

As of August 2023, Democrats held 64 of the mayoral offices in the 100 largest cities in the country, Republicans held 24, independents held four, and nonpartisan mayors held six. Two mayors’ partisan affiliations were unknown.

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