Ad: “Another Lying Politician”

Candidate: Save Nashville PAC in support of Alice Rolli

Transcript: Voiceover: “Another lying politician”

Freddie O’Connell: “I’ll invest in our police”

Voiceover: “The truth? Freddie O’Connell pushed to defund Nashville’s police by $7 million. O’Connell even voted against the license plate readers our police chief pled for. Now crime is surging, so Freddie O’Connor is lying.”

Freddie O’Connell: “I’ll invest in our police”

Voiceover: “Don’t let another politician’s lies make Nashville worse. For mayor, vote Alice Rolli, a teacher and mother, Alice Rolli will work with both parties to keep Nashville safe and affordable. Lower crime, lower taxes. Alice Rolli.”

Analysis: This ad from Save Nashville PAC is part of an $88,000 ad buy that began on Tuesday and runs through the weekend on most news programming in Nashville. Save Nashville ran similar ads in the Aug. 3 general election as part of a strategy to mobilize conservative voters. It echoes a playbook that Alice Rolli’s treasurer David Fox used eight years ago, relying on an outside PAC — in his case funded by his brother — to make attacks while the campaign itself focused on the candidate’s message.

The spot uses a clip from O’Connell’s “Top Priority” ad released last week where he says he will “invest in our police, fire, teachers and public health professionals.” The ad then claims O’Connell attempted to “defund Nashville’s police” and cites a 2020 WPLN article about what reshaping police departments might look like in the wake of the George Floyd killing. Some of the moves to add mental health resources to policing became the “Partners in Care” program, widely viewed as a success and that Rolli herself has touted. The $7 million figure comes from a substitute budget O’Connell proposed, which would have made non-personnel cuts in several departments to avoid the 34 percent property tax increase that eventually passed. Over O’Connell’s eight years as a Metro Council member, the amount of money spent on public safety and the police budget itself increased almost every year and O’Connell voted for all of those budgets. 

The spot, after noting O’Connell’s opposition to license plate readers, also makes the claim that “crime is surging.” The Banner asked MNPD about the statement. “Murder, commercial robbery, street robbery, commercial burglary, residential burglary, and aggravated assault are all showing decreases year-to-date, through August 19, when compared to last year at the same time,” said spokesman Don Aaron. “Auto theft has surged by an increase of 45 percent. The Hyundai and Kia theft phenomenon that you have heard about impacting the country is also a factor here.” 

As the ad ends, the voiceover says, “Lower crime, lower taxes. Alice Rolli.” Rolli, however, has been very careful to say that she will not cut taxes. In an interview with the Banner in April, she said “I’m not making a promise today, Steve, ‘Alice Rolli says she will cut taxes’ because I don’t believe that it is possible until we fix some of the fundamentals.” Additionally, Rolli has made some pledges, like increasing the number of police officers, that would require millions of dollars of revenue and make cutting taxes difficult.

In short, the ad makes three claims on crime, taxes and “defunding the police” that the record doesn’t support.

Where people can see it: Broadcast and cable

(UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: Tom Landstreet of Save Nashville PAC texted the Banner to say that there had been no coordination with Fox or the campaign, which would be illegal. “We have had no contact with him. I started the PAC after visiting San Francisco this summer and witnessing its demise.”)

(UPDATE 6:25 p.m.: Landstreet texts the Banner to say that Save Nashville is not targeting just conservative voters. “We’re targeting non-radicals. Small ‘d’ democrats.”)

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...