Jul 20, 2023 - Election

Battle lines drawn in Metro Council races

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Influential business groups and progressive grassroots organizations coalesced around their preferred Metro Council candidates in recent weeks, creating a tug-of-war for control of the city's legislative body.

Why it matters: Though they sometimes agree on big-picture issues, the business community and the activist groups have differing visions for how Metro should be run.

  • The two sides disagreed several times during the past four years, notably on the $2.1 billion financing plan for the Titans and on the pilot project for the police department to begin using license plate readers.

State of play: Council races are hyperlocal affairs, and candidates need all of the funding help and organizational support they can get.

  • Support from the pro-business political group A Better Nashville brings big bucks. The Nashville Banner reports that A Better Nashville put more than $200,000 toward the candidates it backed.
  • The Nashville Justice League provides its candidates with a massive ground game advantage. According to a press release, the group mobilized volunteers county-wide and knocked on more than 12,000 doors in 2019.

Zoom in: There is a clear divide between the at-large council candidates backed by The Justice League and those backed by A Better Nashville.

  • The Justice League supports Quin Evans Segall, Arnold Hayes, Olivia Hill and Councilmember Delishia Porterfield. The pro-business group backed incumbent at-large Councilmembers Burkley Allen and Zulfat Suara, as well as Councilmembers Jeff Syracuse and Russ Pulley.
  • Porterfield, Syracuse and Pulley are looking to make the leap from the district seats they currently hold to at-large seats, which represent the entire county.

Also: There are five district council races where the Justice League and A Better Nashville are backing opposing candidates.

The Justice League is looking to oust incumbent District 9 Councilmember Tonya Hancock, who is backed by the pro-business group. Challenger Stephanie Montenegro has the progressive backing.

  • Similarly, A Better Nashville hopes to unseat incumbent District 16 Councilmember Ginny Welsch with its support of challenger Alexa Little. Welsch is supported by the Justice League.
  • The other disagreements are in District 8, where the Justice League supports Deonte Harrell and A Better Nashville supports Martez Coleman; District 17, where the Justice League supports Terry Vo and A Better Nashville backed both Tonya Esquibel and Teaka Jackson; and District 25, where the Justice League supports Jeff Preptit and A Better Nashville is for David Ackerman.

Of note: The Justice League is an umbrella organization for three progressive groups: the Central Labor Council, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and the Equity Alliance Fund. The member organizations separately announced their own endorsements.

What they're saying: "We're tired of the rich and powerful elites having their way in our city," Tequila Johnson, executive director of The Equity Alliance Fund, said in a press release. "Our people-powered campaign will elect bold leaders who will stand up to corporate interests and those who uphold white supremacy at the highest levels of Metro government."

A Better Nashville chairperson Gus Puryear says his group "will support local candidates committed to good governance, a collaborative spirit, a pro-business mindset, and visionary planning."


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