So you want to be an at-large councilmember. How exactly do you get a county of voters to pick you?
First, it’s not crucial, but it helps if your name is high in the alphabet. (We’re looking at you, Burkley Allen.) On a ballot with 20 or more names, there’s a non-zero portion of the electorate that isn’t going to look very far down the list. (Good luck, Jonathan Williamson.)
Second, if you’re attempting to step up from a district seat, you need to run an aggressive race. (We’re looking at an inbox full of fundraising emails from you, Jeff Syracuse.) The rare candidates who are able to make the leap understand that it takes a lot of work to go from needing as little as 800 votes in a district to needing 30,000-40,000 votes countywide. Syracuse started his run a year ago and has been relentless in fundraising and attempting to reach voters outside of his Donelson district.
Third, it can help if you find a lane. (We’re looking at you, Steve Glover.) In a race where voters choose five names from a field, candidates who can effectively reach a large slice of the electorate can get elected. Glover, who resigned from the council in 2022 due to health reasons, was an outspoken Republican and rallied a swath of support. Though originally created as a concession to white voters when Metro was formed, at-large seats have become a consistent expression of Black voting power in the past two decades, with Jerry Maynard and current mayoral candidate Sharon Hurt holding at-large seats.
Fourth, you’re going to have to raise a lot of money, and it helps if you can tap new sources. (We’re looking at you, Zulfat Suara.) In 2019, Suara was successful in bringing in more new big donors than anyone else, tapping the immigrant and Muslim communities in Nashville. With such a large, late-arriving mayoral field hammering donors for cash, finding new places to fundraise can be beneficial when the usual sources for an $1,800 max donation get fatigued.
And fifth, keep it positive. (We’re looking at all of you). At-large candidates have to be prepared to be someone’s second choice in both the general election and possibly a runoff. In 2019, only Bob Mendes was able to claim a seat in the first round, leaving eight candidates to slug it out for the final four positions in a runoff. The game theory of a multicandidate race is such that voters often penalize candidates who are excessively negative when they get a second chance to vote for or against them. In a big field with multiple options, rarely does attacking another candidate pay off.
So what does this field look like?
Syracuse (District 15), Russ Pulley (District 25) and Delisha Porterfield (District 29) are all attempting to make the leap from district to at-large. Pulley might have the inside track on the Republican path from his Green Hills seat, while Syracuse was the first candidate to declare. Porterfield built up a lot of goodwill during the Justin Jones expulsion by nominating her former political opponent in state House District 52 back to his seat.
Names You Might Recognize
- Chris Crofton is a comedian and musician who is the longtime Advice King columnist for the Nashville Scene. (The Scene has discontinued Crofton’s column during his run for office.)
- Quin Evans-Segall is a lawyer who serves on the Industrial Development Board — a body that has traditionally been a rubber stamp — where she pushed hard on deals the city has made.
- Ronnie Greer represented District 17 from 1999 to 2007.
- Arnold Hayes, a retired engineer, was previously chair of the Community Oversight Board.
- Olivia Hill, a now-retired Vanderbilt employee, made news after suing the university for discriminating against her for being transgender.
- Yolanda Hockett is a juvenile corrections administrator who previously ran for the District 2 seat in 2019.
- Howard Jones has run for office multiple times, including last year for circuit court judge.
- Marcia Masulla, a former aide to Mayor John Cooper, has been active in the nonprofit community and co-founded Nashville Fashion Week.
- Gilbert Ramirez, a former MNPD officer who was decommissioned in 2019, briefly ran for mayor before switching over to at-large.
- Tony Chapman is a Republican who lives in Antioch.
- Chris Cheng, an ex-Army officer who owns a hot sauce business in Old Hickory, grew up in Cane Ridge.
- Stephen Downs, a retiree in Madison, says his No.1 priority is repairing the relationship between the city and state.
- Brian Hellwig is an “asset protection specialist” for Home Depot.
- Indrani Ray is a health care consultant who previously worked for Vanderbilt Medical Center and the state.
- Delores Vandivort is a registered nurse from West Nashville.
- Jonathan Williamson is a former Davidson County Democratic Executive committee member who works for Marriott.