A mailer by Save My Fairgrounds targeting District 16 Councilmember Ginny Welsch.

Matt Wiltshire and Freddie O’Connell were neck-and-neck in July fundraising for their ongoing bids for mayor, with the former MDHA executive Wiltshire pulling in $120,838 and the District 19 councilmember O’Connell close behind with $114,167. Wiltshire loaned his campaign $450,000 and spent $878,362 for the period from July 1-24, with the majority of that money spent on television ads.

Jeff Yarbro raised $85,046 followed by Alice Rolli with $54,882, Heidi Campbell with $38,746, Sharon Hurt with $23,305 and Vivian Wilhoite with $8,495. Jim Gingrich raised $5,885 from individuals and loaned his campaign another $500,000 before dropping out of the race last week.

Wiltshire has now loaned his campaign a little more than $800,000, while Gingrich has loaned $2.5 million.

Following Wiltshire in spending were Yarbro with $482,333 and O’Connell with $459,602. From there, the dropoff is steep, with Rolli spending $167,419, Campbell $147,541, Sharon Hurt $102,673 and Vivian Wilhoite $21,177.

For O’Connell, the cash has followed a surge in support as seven different polls examined by the Banner since early July have shown him leading the field slightly. Most polls show a runoff would likely be between O’Connell and one of Wiltshire, Rolli or Yarbro. Each of the polls shows a high amount of undecided voters, ranging between 21 and 32 percent. Click on names to read full disclosures.

Pre-General DisclosureRaisedSpentCash on hand
Matt Wiltshire$120,838.00$878,362.86$183,652.33
Freddie O’Connell$114,167.74$459,602.29$74,466.87
Jeff Yarbro$85,046.00$482,333.36$112,561.54
Alice Rolli$54,882.82$167,419.54$51,569.66
Heidi Campbell$38,746.81$147,541.98$40,233.17
Sharon Hurt$23,305.00$102,673.86$18,059.68
Vivian Wilhoite$8,495.00$21,177.08$25,979.34
Jim Gingrich$5,885.00$657,266.26$29,920.07
Source: Davidson County Election Commission

Early Voting Skews Older

Early voting ends on Saturday, and so far, older voters are greatly outnumbering younger voters. 

While people ages 18-24 represent 9.6 percent of the total population of Davidson County, only 2.11 percent of people who had voted as of July 25 fell in that age range. By comparison, people ages 65 and older, who make up 13.2 percent of the total population of Davidson County, made up 47.15 percent of people who had voted as of July 25. 

Freddie O’Connell’s campaign compiled the numbers and he tweeted them out on Thursday with what sounded like a warning to younger, more progressive voters likely to support him. 

“I’ve worked with young people for a long time. I used to be one who didn’t vote,” he said. 

The pattern is pretty typical, especially in early voting. Younger voters usually turn out more on election day, while older voters are more proactive. In total, more than 70 percent of the early vote this cycle has been cast by voters over the age of 50. 

Here’s a full list of early voting numbers by age range:

Davidson Co. populationPercent of population2023 Early Vote through July 25
18 to 24 years67,8039.60%7032.11%
25 to 34141,71820.10%2,8018.42%
35 to 49141,43720.10%5,96717.95%
50 to 64117,95616.80%8,10224.37%

Welsch Says She’s ‘No. 1 Target’

Mailboxes in District 16 have been flooded with mailers made by outside groups. Councilmember Ginny Welsh is not surprised. She said on Thursday that she has been told “I am the No. 1 target” on the Metro Council. 

Brash and often profane, Welsch does not hide her progressive views, especially on Twitter where she frequently posts about both local and national issues. Mailers have zeroed in on her profanity, with one featuring a picture of her holding a mug that reads “f*** off, you should resign” while another displays controversial tweets, including calling Mayor John Cooper “a liar.”

One of the mailers was sent by Save My Fairgrounds, a group currently pushing to bring NASCAR races to the Fairgrounds Speedway as part of a deal to refurbish the track. Welsch is an outspoken opponent. The group, led by Calvert Street’s Darden Copeland, didn’t register as an entity with the state until Monday when they filed as a 501(c)(4) and not a PAC. Dark money groups typically file as C4s when they want to hide their donors from public disclosure.

Reached by text on Thursday night, Copeland responded “Is that an election piece?” After a reporter said that it was a “negative [piece] against a candidate that landed in mailboxes within 30 days of the election,” Copeland said they would be happy to file a disclosure with the state if needed.

Welsch said that she would file a complaint with the Registry of Campaign Finance on Friday.

Lauren Topping, general counsel for the Registry, told the Banner that the mailer operates in a gray area.

“I can tell you that, in my opinion, this group should register under Tennessee law on the basis of this mailer,” she said. “However, under my understanding of federal law, registration would likely not be required, because they didn’t use words such as ‘elect,’ ‘vote for,’ ‘vote against,’ etc. However, ultimately, only the Registry could make this call.”

Disclosure: Matt Wiltshire has 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...