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How much does a political endorsement really mean?

When Oprah Winfrey endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, the act moved some voters to choose the Illinois senator. (No, really. There have actually been studies). The same can’t be said for Taylor Swift, whose ability to fill Nissan Stadium is unmatched, but whose endorsement couldn’t drag Phil Bredesen across the finish line in his 2018 Senate bid.

But on the local level, do they still have an effect? Well, candidates are still rolling them out, often as a signal to supporters, as if to say “Do you respect this person? Well, they’re supporting me.”

Take Heidi Campbell, for example. Her endorsements, so far, are mainly from colleagues in the state legislature. Vivian Wilhoite has the support of officials whom she worked to get elected, like District Attorney Glenn Funk and former judges Carol Soloman and Nick Leonardo. Though she pointed out in a text, “I am working hard to get the endorsement of the people of Nashville and Davidson County.” The same could probably be said by the rest of the field.

On Tuesday, Freddie O’Connell announced the support of two more Metro councilmembers, Sean Parker and Erin Evans. That makes five of his current colleagues who have lined up behind the District 19 CM. Both Parker and Evans, in a statement, emphasized that they believed O’Connell was ready to be mayor on Day One (and by implication, maybe some of the others in the field were not.)

“His campaign is doing more than just gearing up for Election Day, he’s building the coalition that will lead Nashville in the coming years. I hope you will join us,” Parker said.

Sharon Hurt’s campaign shared a list of 51 endorsements, including the mayor of Denver and what seems like half of the pastors in the city. We’ve shared the first 10 below (minus the mayors of Denver, Glenn Heights, Texas, Miramar, Fla. and Port Arthur, Texas, though we’re sure they’re fine people). 

Megan Barry, who racked up quite a few endorsements in successful runs for council at-large and mayor, said that sometimes it’s the small endorsements, like a sign in the yard of a neighborhood leader, that acts as validation maybe as much as a big name endorsement.

“If I’m in a neighborhood, and I know that there’s leaders in my neighborhood that I do know, I pay attention and I see a sign in their yard, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, good. They already did the research for me,’” Barry said. 

So if it moves you, here is a list of the endorsements of the main candidates for mayor. And as we get closer to Election Day, we’re sure there will be more to come.

Heidi Campbell

  • John Ray Clemmons, State Representative for Tennessee District 55
  • Bob Freeman, State Representative for Tennessee District 56
  • Gloria Johnson, State Representative for Tennessee District 90
  • Sara Kyle, State Senator for Tennessee District 30
  • Cheryl Mayes, School board member
  • Bo Mitchell, State Representative for Tennessee District 50

Jim Gingrich

“As a political outsider, Jim isn’t focused on getting endorsements from politicians. He’s focused on earning the support of the community and working with Nashvillians to move our city forward by managing growth, building affordable housing, making our city safer, and investing in our schools.” — Emily Cupples, campaign manager.

Sharon Hurt

  • Elect Black Women PAC
  • Former State Senator Brenda Gilmore
  • Trustee Erica Gilmore
  • Davidson County Clerk Brenda Wynn
  • Pastor Bill Hardy
  • Pastor Omaran Lee
  • Pastor Frank Stevenson
  • Bishop Jerry Maynard
  • Reverend Diane Christon
  • Pastor Misha Maynard

 Freddie O’Connell

  • CM Bob Mendes
  • CM Sean Parker
  • CM Erin Evans
  • CM Sandra Sepulveda
  • CM Dave Rosenberg
  • Former school board member Jill Speering

Alice Rolli

  • David A. Fox, past chair, school board
  • J.C. Bowman, education leader
  • Joseph D. Love, Jr., Artist 
  • Dr. Pearl Sims, former Planning commissioner
  • Andrew Winfield Dunn, former Director of International Development, ECD
  • Manuel A. Delgado, past East-Nashville Businessman of the Year
  • John D. Richardson, state executive committeeman 

Vivian Wilhoite

  • District Attorney Glenn Funk
  • Former Judge Carol Solomon
  • Former Judge Nick Leonardo

Matt Wiltshire

“Our campaign has received the unprecedented support of more than 2,000 individual donors, including supporters in every single one of Nashville’s 35 Metro Council Districts. Among those supporters are well-known community leaders and elected officials. We’re building a large and diverse coalition for all Nashvillians.”

Jeff Yarbro

  • UFCW (United Food & Commercial Workers)


Filling Bill Beck’s Seat

The unexpected death of Rep. Bill Beck (D-Nashville) over the weekend has kicked off a sprint, of sorts, to fill the District 51 seat.

The Davidson County Election Commission, in quick order, scheduled a primary for Aug. 3, followed by the general election on Sept. 14, the same date as the likely Metro runoff election. Using the same dates will save taxpayers from having to run a second, independent election, a la the primary to fill Justin Jones’ District 52 seat next week. His removal from the state legislature in April triggered the June 15 election.

But there’s still the matter of a likely August special session to be called by Gov. Bill Lee to address gun safety and mental health issues in the wake of the Covenant School shootings. 

That means the Metro Council will have to appoint someone to the seat. Several councilmembers spoke to the Banner on background, not wishing to be disrespectful to Beck’s family, and indicated that the likely selection could be Anthony Davis, who was friends with Beck, and served on the Council from 2011-2019 representing District 7.

Davis told the Banner, “if I’m called to serve I will serve,” but that in this time of mourning he has not heard anything official yet. He said he is interested in who Beck’s family would want to fill the rest of his term. 

Steve is a three-decade veteran of newspapers, working around the country at places like the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune before returning home to Nashville in 2011 to edit The City Paper and Nashville...

Addison Wright, a Nashville native, is a student-athlete (swimming) at UNC Asheville, where she's double majoring in Mass Communications and Political Science in the class of 2024.