Alice Rolli speaks to supporters on Thursday night, Aug. 3 at Coco's Event Center. Credit: Eric England/Nashville Scene/Special to the Banner

Alice Rolli fired her campaign consultant and his firm on Monday after his ties to the Proud Boys surfaced.

As reported in a 2021 Washington Post article, Woodrow Johnston organized protests on behalf of Nevada Republicans following the 2020 presidential election. In Facebook Messenger messages, Johnston told an activist, “We need to do the same here in Nevada. We need to get the Proud Boys out.”

Johnston, the vice president of McShane LLC consulting at the time, was working on his own and not on behalf of his firm at the time of the quote. McShane does represent several far-right clients, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), who are election deniers. Rolli hired McShane to handle most aspects of her campaign.

In an email to supporters obtained by the Banner, Rolli said she fired Johnston.

“I learned some unsettling news this morning. I’m sharing it with you to be fully transparent about my campaign,” she wrote. “This morning I learned the consultant firm we hired had more than a strong connection to Proud Boys. Today I confirmed this alarming information and immediately severed ties with the firm. Hatred has no place in Nashville. It has no place on my campaign. After taking immediate steps to separate our campaign, I knew you needed to hear from me, directly.”

Johnson disputed being fired. He provided a letter to Axios on Monday showing that he had resigned on Saturday. Rolli told the Banner that she did not know about the Proud Boy links until after speaking to a group at Pinnacle Bank on Monday morning. It was at that point she said she cut ties to McShane. 

When asked about whether Johnston quit or was fired, Rolli said she didn’t want to get into a back-and-forth over it. Rolli said she was introduced to McShane by Phil Griffin, a Rutherford County-based operative for the firm. In a text shared with the Banner, Griffin apologized to Rolli and said he had no idea about any Proud Boys ties.

Rolli has spent two-thirds of her campaign’s money with McShane, an all-in-one consultancy that provided media buying, production, digital and direct mail services. In addition to Gosar, McShane clients include Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) and Bob Good (R-Virginia), who along with Gosar voted to overturn the 2020 election and in January 2023 held out supporting Kevin McCarthy in a vote for speaker of the House because they viewed him as insufficiently conservative.

Pressed about the firm’s far-right ties and whether they were adequately vetted, Rolli said she was relying on Griffin’s recommendation.

“Yeah, should I have probably called a whole bunch of references? Maybe,” Rolli said. “Did we put the team together quickly? Yes. And the day that I found out about this, I made a change.”

On election night, Rolli thanked Johnston for her victory. But on Monday, Rolli said that the message was hers.

“I wrote my own stuff,” she said. “If you look at my announcement before I hired them, you look at my initial ad that I wrote and drafted and yes, I hired their team to do it. And yes, I hired their team to say, ‘This is who we need to target.’ But I sort of saw them as a vehicle through which to buy things to get my message out.”

The campaign spent Monday hiring new vendors for most of their voter contact efforts and moving all of the assets over from McShane.

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...