Jim Gingrich, the retired business executive who brought his company to Nashville in 2018 and then ran to lead his new home, dropped out of the mayor’s race on Monday, three days into early voting.
If the announcement was a shock, the decision was not. The campaign commissioned a poll last week and got results back today. Campaign manager Emily Cupples went through the data with Gingrich this afternoon. At 4:20 p.m., an email went out announcing that Gingrich had suspended his campaign. He will still be on the Aug. 3 ballot.
“With deep gratitude to the city of Nashville and a heavy heart, I have made the decision to suspend my campaign for Mayor. After deciding what was best for my family, how to honor my campaign team, respect every single supporter we have gained, and in consultation with the electoral data available, we have decided to put the best interest of the Nashvillians first and allow voters to rally behind another candidate,” Gingrich said in a statement.
He did not endorse anyone.
Gingrich’s decision ends one of the more interesting bids to lead the city. While he was chief operating officer at AllianceBernstein, he facilitated the investment firm’s move from New York to Nashville. Upon his retirement, he opted to stay, saying he had fallen in love with his adopted home.
Active in a number of civic organizations, Gingrich began a kind of listening tour last year, meeting with business executives, politicians, journalists and civic leaders to sound out a ` potential run for mayor. While most people noted that he had only been in Nashville for a few years, Gingrich was undaunted. The move was not without precedent: Phil Bredesen’s first run for mayor came a little over a decade after his move to Nashville.
Gingrich entered the race in February — a week after Mayor John Cooper opted not to run for re-election — and immediately pledged $2 million of his own money to the campaign, giving him an immediate advantage. He began airing commercials in April, part of an air campaign that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars even as other campaigns were still getting organized in the late-arriving field.
His rationale was an outsider’s view of city politics.
“I’m not a career politician or part of the metro government establishment,” he told the Banner in February. “And I don’t think at this point where we are as a city, we can afford politics as usual in City Hall, we can’t continue to kick the can on the challenges that we face. And that’s why I’m running for mayor.”
He occupied a kind of center ground in the field. Fiscally conservative and a registered Republican while living in New York, he was part of a group of business leaders who spoke out against a steady stream of anti-LGBTQ legislation that has emerged from the state legislature. Gingrich served on the boards of both the Chamber and the Convention and Visitor’s Corp., but was best known for his vocal opposition to both the Titans’ stadium deal and the proposal to refurbish the Fairgrounds Speedway to bring NASCAR back to the city. His political ads against the racetrack drew the wrath of supporters and even the threat of retaliation on his campaign.
Internally, the campaign staff believed that a surge in support in May showed that their strategy was on the right track. His early ads, well-produced spots that tapped into voter angst around traffic, housing and affordability, introduced him to the electorate. And even though his support was in single digits, it had been zero the year before when Matt Wiltshire and Freddie O’Connell launched their bids.
But as eight main mayoral campaigns began messaging and fundraising intensely in June, Gingrich’s upward trajectory stalled. By the end of the month, the campaign had burned $1.95 million during the quarter and was not in the top tier of candidates. Polls of varying qualities showed him with 5-8 percent support.
“I have never met an individual as empathetic, thoughtful, or analytical as Jim Gingrich. I believe Jim is the right leader for Nashville, but our polls showed it wasn’t the right time,” said Cupples.
His full statement:
“With deep gratitude to the city of Nashville and a heavy heart, I have made the decision to suspend my campaign for Mayor. After deciding what was best for my family, how to honor my campaign team, respect every single supporter we have gained, and in consultation with the electoral data available, we have decided to put the best interest of the Nashvillians first and allow voters to rally behind another candidate.
I entered this race on a mission to change the trajectory of our city, how it manages its finances, and generate a conversation about what type of leadership our city deserves. To every single person who gave a penny of their hard-earned money or a second of their precious time, thank you for believing in a better Nashville. After speaking to Nashvillians across the city, I can say with confidence that the conversation has been started. Nashvillians are hungry for a bold, courageous leader who will choose people over politics every single day.
My campaign manager, Emily Cupples, and my field director, Adam Altendorf, and the rest of our amazing team ran a superb race. They have shown how to run campaigns to the highest standard, and I am forever grateful for their guidance, friendship, and commitment to my candidacy.
Just as people of Nashville overwhelmingly opposed providing the largest public subsidy in history to build a new NFL stadium, voters equally oppose the building of a 30,000-seat racetrack facility on the current Nashville Fairground Speedway site with no protection for taxpayers. We must elect a leader who will be more effective with our tax dollars, and that starts with not being wasteful with our tax dollars on bad deals. And, voters, it is necessary to implore your friends and family to join you at the polls.
Again, I cannot express my appreciation and gratitude enough to every supporter. I am going to take some time out of the public eye to focus on my family and continue as a public servant through my nonprofit involvement. Thank you all for an opportunity of a lifetime.” – Jim Gingrich