Two big mayoral endorsements came on Wednesday as former congressman Jim Cooper endorsed Jeff Yarbro and Sheriff Daron Hall endorsed Matt Wiltshire.

The quotes

  • “The next mayor of Nashville will have to defend Nashville against the radical forces in the legislature who want to tear our city apart, while making sure Nashville remains a great city for the next generation,” Cooper said in a statement. “During his nine years representing Nashville in the State Senate, Jeff Yarbro has proved that he is a consensus-builder and leader we can always count on to stand up for our city, and he’s got my vote for mayor.”
  • “I’m excited to support Matt Wiltshire for Mayor,” said Hall in a statement. “As I have often said, executive experience is critical in this job, and Matt Wiltshire has the right experience and ideas to tackle our city’s most pressing challenges. Matt also believes, like I do, that we must stop criminalizing mental illness and invest in the services that our most vulnerable residents need.”

The context

Jim Cooper has been the highest-profile Democrat in the city for a while now, bowing out of a re-election campaign for his 5th District congressional seat last year when the state Republicans split his Nashville district into three parts. He’s won a lot of elections and a metric ton of Democratic votes and that could mean something for Yarbro, who is scrambling to get into a runoff. Hall, meanwhile, has won six countywide elections for Sheriff and is widely respected for his political acumen. If there is any vestige of a political machine left in the county, it belongs to Hall (ask Vivian Wilhoite, who benefitted from Hall’s push when she won her first race for property assessor in 2016). 

Do these endorsements matter? For some voters, likely yes. It probably has more impact than the Jason Powell (state legislature) endorsement touted by Freddie O’Connell’s folks or the Collective PAC (a national group supporting black candidates) endorsement heralded by Sharon Hurt on Tuesday, even though the campaigns highly value those endorsements.

One interesting official who hasn’t endorsed? Jim’s brother John, who just happens to be the incumbent mayor. There’s probably a small list of people who Cooper would even think about endorsing: Wiltshire, Freddie O’Connell and Sharon Hurt all got in the race before the mayor decided to bow out, so they’re likely out; Alice Rolli speaks admiringly of Cooper because of their work together on Ft. Negley, but he’s not going to endorse a Republican; that leaves Vivian Wilhoite, Heidi Campbell and Yarbro as the only real possibilities. Watch this space.

For an extensive list of endorsements for the Aug. 3 election by candidate or organizations, click here.

Gingrich Files First

The final campaign finance disclosures before Election Day aren’t due until end of the day on Thursday for the period from July 1-24, but one mayoral campaign has already submitted theirs.

Jim Gingrich suspended his campaign, but only after raising $5,885 from individual donors, loaning himself a half million dollars and finishing with $29,920 cash on hand. He began the period with $181,301. His biggest expenditures were to Putnam Partners, the D.C.-based media firm that produced his TV ads.

Racetrack Positioning

As it becomes increasingly likely that the issue of refurbishing the Fairgrounds Speedway to attract NASCAR back to Nashville will be on the plate of the next mayor — there is a movement to defer the plan in the Metro Council, effectively killing it for the term — we asked the seven main mayoral candidates how they stand on the deal.

Alice Rolli: “In 2011, 71 percent of voters voted to memorialize and always have in the charter racing at the Fairgrounds. While it may be an inconvenient truth for some developers, their voices still matter to me, and the Bristol Motor Speedway project appears to deliver on reducing sound, improving safety, and reducing financial obligations for the city and for these reasons I support it.” 

Heidi Campbell (via spokesperson): “Heidi’s position is that she does not support the current plan, specifically because of major concerns regarding parking and sound pollution in the surrounding neighborhood. The current proposals regarding the type of sound wall and the amount of available parking are totally insufficient, and Heidi believes those issues need to be addressed as part of any fair plan or discussion regarding the future of the speedway.” 

Matt Wiltshire: “I grew up riding the rollercoaster at Fair Park and have wonderful memories of the State Fair at the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds are an important part of Nashville and what makes living here special. But I have some concerns about the proposed deal with NASCAR. When public dollars are on the line and we have important priorities that need attention, from affordable housing to our schools and sidewalks, it’s important to ensure taxpayers are protected. As mayor, my focus will be on making Nashville more affordable, safer, and home to the best public school system in America.”

Freddie O’Connell: “I haven’t been focused on the deal given the procedural difficulties it has faced, but I look forward to an opportunity to consider how we continue to improve the Fairgrounds—including the speedway—next term..”

Vivian Wilhoite (via spokesperson): “Vivian is primarily for the speedway because under state law, Metro is required to take care of the speedway. The current proposal not only includes noise abatement and much-needed parking for the Wedgewood Houston neighborhood, it also preserves Nashville’s speedway at no cost to taxpayers by utilizing private development. However, she wants to be sure noise abatement is addressed which impacts surrounding neighbors.” 

Sharon Hurt: “We’ve got to take a very close look at this project proposal. Time is needed for it to be thoroughly vetted with much community engagement. As Mayor, that will be the lens through which I will make all of my decisions.”

Jeff Yarbro: “We need to pump the brakes on the racetrack and not rush headlong into another large-scale sports facility project just days before the selection of a new Mayor and Metro Council — especially while we’re challenging the legislature’s attempt to override the will of the voters to preserve the existing racetrack at the Fairgrounds. We should have a countywide conversation about the future of the fairgrounds when our next mayor and council can give it the attention it deserves, with full public input. Nashville voted 12 years ago to preserve the racetrack, fairgrounds and flea market, and we shouldn’t mistake that decision as a mandate to build something new. Let’s do our due diligence and not race into any decisions that will affect our city for decades to come”

Disclosure: Jim Cooper and Matt Wiltshire have donated to the Nashville Banner. Financial supporters play no role in the Banner’s journalism.

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.