Apr 29, 2022 - News

Freddie O'Connell enters Nashville mayor's race

headshot on background of Freddie O'Connell

Photo: courtesy of Freddie O'Connell

Metro Councilmember Freddie O'Connell became the first major candidate to enter the 2023 mayor's race Thursday.

Why it matters: O'Connell, a 45-year-old Nashville native and Brown University grad, rose from a mass transportation and environmental activist to one of the most consequential members of the Metro Council.

  • Now in his second term, O'Connell has a legislative record to appeal to progressives and a history of collaboration on economic development issues that may win over the city's business community.
  • In this term alone, O'Connell navigated a devastating tornado in his district, the impact of the pandemic on the city's tourism industry and the Christmas 2020 bombing on Second Avenue.

State of play: The mayor's race could be crowded and competitive. In addition to O'Connell, nonprofit executive Hal Cato and Metro Development and Housing Agency official Matt Wiltshire have said they might run.

  • Mayor John Cooper has sent signals he'll run for reelection yet hasn't announced a decision. An incumbent mayor has only lost reelection once in the history of Metro — in 2019, when Cooper unseated Mayor David Briley.

Be smart: O'Connell has staked his career on transportation issues. He served on the Metro Transit Authority board and volunteered for the advocacy group Walk Bike Nashville.

What he's saying: "I'm running to expand the conversations and work I've been involved in on council — strong, organized neighborhoods; transit and infrastructure; and the work of the 37208 committee," O'Connell tells Axios. "Right now, the city needs leadership, vision, and action, and I've got the experience to deliver all three."

Yes, but: O'Connell must improve his fundraising game to be competitive. No candidate has successfully made the leap from a district council seat to the mayor's office in part because mayoral campaigns are expensive.

  • According to his 2021 year-end supplemental campaign finance report, O'Connell had a modest $55,083 in his coffers. A 2023 mayoral campaign will likely cost closer to $2 million.
  • Cooper has already proven he can contribute substantially to a mayoral campaign, and insiders suspect the same would be true of both Cato and Wiltshire if they run.

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