Freddie O'Connell enters Nashville mayor's race
Metro Councilmember Freddie O'Connell became the first major candidate to enter the 2023 mayor's race Thursday.
- O'Connell — who represents downtown, Salemtown, Germantown, the Gulch and Music Row — unveiled his plans to The Tennessean.
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.
- As a council member, he led the passage of a local version of the Green New Deal aimed at making the city government more environmentally friendly.
- He also sponsored legislation to eliminate jailer fees and to regulate the downtown transportainment industry. More recently, he filed legislation calling for the creation of a new city department to oversee homelessness.
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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