Sep 15, 2023 - News

Freddie O'Connell elected Nashville mayor

Freddie O'Connell surrounded by supporters at his campaign victory party. Photo: Courtesy of the O'Connell campaign

Freddie O'Connell, the former neighborhood association president who served two terms on the Metro Council, vaulted to the pinnacle of Nashville politics on Thursday when he was elected as the city's next mayor.

  • Voters overwhelmingly picked O'Connell to lead his hometown. He won 64% of the vote in the runoff against his opponent, businessperson Alice Rolli.

Why it matters: O'Connell rallied his base with a back-to-basics platform focused on managing growth and restoring local pride in a city most residents consider to be on the wrong track.

  • He made his opposition to the new $2.1 billion Titans stadium the centerpiece of his campaign and said his administration would emphasize basic government functions such as curbside recycling and mass transit.

What he's saying: In a victory speech in front of a joyous crowd, O'Connell referenced his campaign slogan — "I want you to stay" — saying his top priority would be improving the quality of life for Nashville residents.

  • "I can't wait to get to work."

Zoom in: O'Connell, 46, is a Nashville native who attended Eakin Elementary and Montgomery Bell Academy.

  • He moved to Salemtown in 2007 and lives there with his partner Whitney Boon, who is a pediatric neurologist at Vanderbilt Children's, and their two daughters.

The big picture: O'Connell has been a popular district council member for years, representing a swath of the city including downtown. But when he launched his mayoral campaign in April 2022, many still considered him an underdog and questioned his fundraising chops.

  • But after outgoing Mayor John Cooper announced he wouldn't seek re-election, O'Connell emerged as a leader in a crowded field of well-funded challengers.

Between the lines: While Metro elections are nonpartisan, the city has skewed more liberal in recent years. Several high-profile Democrats were in the race, but O'Connell established himself as the go-to progressive voice.

  • Some of his wealthier opponents flooded the airwaves for months before he launched his first TV ad, but O'Connell's deep understanding of city government combined with quirky and humorous messaging helped him build a passionate coalition of supporters.
  • He entered the general election on Aug. 3 as an odds-on favorite and won that race with 27% of the vote. Rolli, who touted her conservative bonafides, came in second and also advanced to the runoff.

Flash forward: During the six-week runoff campaign, O'Connell amassed a record-setting war chest as the city establishment rallied around him. Several of his general election opponents had endorsed him by Election Day.

  • O'Connell maintained a low-key and consistent approach during the runoff, with TV ads that struck an optimistic, forward-looking tone.

What's next: O'Connell said he would begin preparing to take office immediately.


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