Nashville’s 2023 mayoral race is already packed

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Nashville is on track for another robust and competitive mayoral race.

  • Nashville’s incumbent mayors typically head for re-election, but with less than a year to go, that dynamic seems to be a thing of the past.

Why is this important: For the third time in five years, a crowded field of viable candidates will seek the mayorship of Nashville.

  • Two legitimate contenders have already entered the 2023 mayoral race: Metro council member Freddie O’Connell and former government official Matt Wiltshire.

State of play: Mayor John Cooper took office promising stability and a return to core neighborhood priorities.

What we are looking at: Cooper hasn’t officially announced he’s running for office, but it appears he intends to.

Yes and: Another serious challenger, former nonprofit executive Hal Cato, also looks set to enter the race.

  • Jim Gingrich, former senior executive of AllianceBernstein, also sent signals he can run.
  • And courthouse watchers are watching to see if state Rep. Bob Freeman will enter the fray.

The plot: As the race looms right now, all of the top contenders would be white Democratic males. But that may not sit well with Nashville voters.

  • In a sign of voters’ appetite for more progressive candidates, social justice activists Charlane Oliver and Justin Jones won competitive Democratic primaries earlier this month with well-funded campaigns. It remains to be seen which candidate the progressive political infrastructure will adopt.
  • One name to watch is activist Odessa Kelly, who is running for Congress against US Representative Mark Green. If she fails in the solidly Republican district, she could easily swing into a mayoral race.

Despite the fact that Mayor Cooper has not pledged to run, his campaign continues to bring in money.

  • It grossed $343,396 for the fundraising period ending June 30.

By the numbers: Cooper’s campaign account was down to just $8,770 before he started fundraising in earnest this spring.

  • Cooper’s 2023 campaign has $295,535 on hand.
  • He reported $725,000 in outstanding loans.

Yes, but: O’Connell and Wiltshire also left for notable fundraising efforts. In just over a month and without the help of an official fundraising team, O’Connell raised over $102,000.

  • Wiltshire has yet to file a public statement, but in a press release announced that it had raised $351,332 in just one week.

The bottom line: Incumbent mayors rarely see such well-funded challengers.

  • The only incumbent to ever lose re-election in Metro government history was Mayor David Briley, who lost to Cooper in 2019.
  • Briley assumed the position after Mayor Megan Barry resigned.
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