In the historic first year of term limits on the Metro Council, voters venture into the great unknown in the Aug. 5 elections. No fewer than 17 Council members have been involuntarily retired after at least eight years in office, and another half-dozen or so incumbents are running for their political lives, creating red-hot races all over the map. Here are the Council contests to watch:
Here we are, nearing the end of the millennium, and this contest is divided largely along color lines. Incumbent Regina Patton, who is lighter than Ivory soap, derives most of her support from largely white and rural Joelton, while challenger Brenda Gilmore, who is black, is stronger in Bordeaux’s urban community. Perhaps the hottest election in the city, this contest has turned nasty.
Patton, who voted against Dell and for the stadium, hints that Gilmore is trying to hide her race. “Nowhere is her picture printed in any publication in the Joelton area, but up in Bordeaux her picture is all over the place.”
For her part, Gilmore says she’s made “strong efforts to extend the olive branch to the white community.” She expresses dissatisfaction with one of Patton’s ads. Published in the Joelton Shopper, it emphasized Gilmore’s Bordeaux roots. Says Gilmore, “It’s disappointing in 1999 that we still employ those kind of tactics.”
Both candidates stress basic quality-of-life issues, including improving police protection, controlling growth, and combating storm water runoff. In addition, both feel their district has been a dumping ground for the kinds of things the rest of the city doesn’t want. “When we do get attention,” Patton says, “it’s for something we don’t want, like a landfill or a dog pound.” (MP)
Incumbent Ron Nollner says, “Backyard flooding is the biggest issue” in this Madison district, so he’s emphasizing that he has secured $2 million in city money for storm-water management during his four years on the Council. Nollner, who’s being challenged by DuPont worker Gene Parrish, says, “We always run like we’re one vote behind,” but he’s confident he will win. (JW)
This five-candidate race for an inner-city seat, which includes crime-plagued portions of Dickerson Road as well as the Sam Levy Homes, seems destined for a runoff. Lawrence Hall, however, is considered the clear favorite, having won the support of the outgoing Frank Harrison, who could have had this seat for life if not for term limits. A research analyst for the state of Tennessee, Hall says that his priorities are reducing crime through better community policing, cleaning up the neighborhoods, and implementing after-school programs. His challengers are Aaron Covington, Donnie Herford, Wilbert Jackson, and Pam Murray. (MP)
For incumbents who don’t want to win reelection, there’s a sure-fire method to follow, particularly in this East Nashville district where constituents are perhaps more active than anywhere else in the city. The method is simple: Don’t return phone calls.
District 6 has always been tough for incumbents to keep, given the various neighborhood interests and competing concerns within the urban environment. Incumbent Eileen Beehan, though, who nestled snugly in Mayor Phil Bredesen’s hip pocket during the divisive stadium debate three years ago, may have mastered the blueprint for defeat. Notorious for being unresponsive to constituents, Beehan is apparently getting at least some trouble from challenger Lee Domann, a former songwriter who is now a community and music minister for the United Methodist Church. (LMG)
In his first term on the Council, Lawrence Hart managed to survive a shoplifting charge and a mysterious stabbing. In the meantime, he vocally opposed the mayor on every issue under Nashville’s sunfrom the stadium to Dell. To the surprise of some, he appears headed toward reelection. “When I ran, I pledged that I would do my best to ascertain the will of the district,” he says, “and that is precisely what I’ve done.”
Hart, who has led numerous neighborhood beautification efforts, has two opponents: Tom Stewart is a lawyer who has represented NES employees and talks about how he wants to “annex Opryland.” Whatever.
Ruth Warady is a bit more sensible. She says Hart’s headline-grabbing behavior has brought bad publicity to the district. “In life, it’s a give-and-take effort,” she philosophizes. “When you vote against Metro, you can’t get anything done in your district.” (MP)
Betty Balthrop, who worked for Richard Fulton when he was mayor, is seen as the favorite to succeed Tim Garrett, who is running for vice mayor. Buck Buchanan, a retired Metro police sergeant and political newcomer, is her only opponent in this Goodlettsville district. In a twist, both candidates say they wouldn’t oppose a tax hike, as long as the money went to build more fire halls or to hire more cops. (JW)
A runoff seems likely in the hotly contested race to succeed the term-limited Mike Wooden in this Old Hickory district. Auctioneer Feller Brown, schoolteacher Rob Gaines, and DuPont employee Gary Gentry are all working hard enough to win. Only perennial candidate Earl Whittenberg is considered out of the running. Wooden isn’t making an endorsement. Brown is focusing on schools. Gentry and Gaines are making crime fighting their top priorities. (JW)
Expect another close race in this grudge rematch pitting incumbent Charles French and challenger Tony Derryberry. In 1995, French squeaked by the feisty Derryberry by a whopping 60 votes. French served previously as a Council member at-large. But he is now running for only his second term representing District 13, so the term-limits law may not technically apply to him. Still, Derryberry says French is violating the spirit of the law.
“My opponent doesn’t care what the people think,” says Derryberry, who works for the state Board of Paroles. “He’s running against the term-limit law, and he’s misleading the public.”
One of many candidates countywide trying to curry support among the anti-Bredesen crowd, Derryberry has also attacked French’s vote in favor of the Dell deal. Part of Dell’s operations will be located in District 13, which includes the Metro Airport.
“It’s the same as the stadium,” says Derryberry. “The taxpayers are paying Bud Adams, and the taxpayers are going to have to pay for Dell.” (MP)
Incumbent James Bruce Stanley is facing a surprisingly tough challenge. Says his opponent, Harold White, “I’m jumping into the race because I’m tired of Metro Government giving tax breaks to the rich.” This populist sentiment might play well among the Donelson working-class folks. Both candidates talk about improving basic services, including storm water runoff and police and fire protection. (MP)
In this contest to succeed the term-limited Roy Dale, J.B. Loring has won key endorsements from labor unions. But judging by the number of yard signs around this Donelson district, retired schoolteacher Phil Claiborne is staying close. Loring ran unsuccessfully against Dale four years ago, giving him an advantage in name recognition. (JW)
Four candidates are in the mix to replace the outgoing Jerry Wayne Graves, whose contributions to Metro Government could be recorded on a Post-It note. Don Ivancic says now is a critical time for this Nolensville Road-area district, which includes thriving Kurdish and Laotian communities along with working-class lifers. “The main issue is the transition of housing from owner-occupied to rental. If left unchecked, the neighborhood is going to lose its identity.” Other candidates include attorney Amanda McClendon, who last year ran unsuccessfully for a General Sessions judgeship; Rick Willis Jr.; and Jonathan Saad. (MP)
Three well-regarded candidates hope to replace Council member Mansfield Douglas, who has represented this South Nashville district since Richard Fulton was teething. The all-encompassing district includes a diverse array of businesses, the projects in Edgehill, and the revitalized Woodland-in-Waverly neighborhood. Jim Hester, who served on the Senate staff of Al Gore and has the support of Tennessee Supreme Court Justice A.A. Birch, might well appeal to upwardly mobile homeowners. On the racially volatile issue of historic zoning, Hester, who is white, pulls no punches. “I’m in favor of historic zoning because it offers protection against developers and speculators who might come tear down the house and split,” he says. “The people like historic zoning because it keeps their property values up.”
Candidate J.C. Smith is ambivalent about historic zoning, focusing instead on other issues. “The more serious problems are the crime, the kids hanging out on the street corners, the loud music, and the vandalism.” Smith, who is known in parts of the district as the “black cowboy” because he rides around on a black Harley, says he wants to restore programs in which younger children interact with the elderly.
The least impressive of the three, Ronnie Greer may actually be winning the battle of the yard signs. He says, quite vacuously, that the biggest problem facing District 17 is “unity.” All together now. (MP)
The brain power of both candidates vying to succeed the term-limited Stewart Clifton should ease the minds of recycling-happy constituencies here. As Council candidates go, these are among the best and brightest.
Ginger Hausser, a 30-year-old research analyst for the state Comptroller’s office, is a Democratic Party activist looking to start her political career. Jayne Gordon, 41, an attorney, is president of the Belmont/Hillsboro neighborhood association and long active in the district. Voters here can’t go wrong. (LMG)
Since he’s pretty well finished running the local chapter of the NAACP into the ground, former Metro Council member Ludye Wallace apparently needs something else to do. Defeated in 1995 by outgoing Council member Julius Sloss, Wallace seeks a comeback in this mostly black district in the center of the city. Perhaps the one to beat here, though, is Brianna Latham, the daughter of local publisher Sam Latham. Also running is Danny Harris, a nice and well-meaning downtown dweller naively unaware how much his colorhe’s whiteis a liability. (LMG)
Melvin Gill, Venita Lewis, and Dorothy Bond Wilson are running hard to unseat Councilman Morris Haddox in this North Nashville district. But don’t bet against Haddox. A popular pharmacist on Charlotte Avenue, he stays in touch with his constituents. Haddox promises to work with the Metro Development and Housing Agency to attract more affordable homes. Gill says he wants more minority contractors for major development projects around the city. Lewis wants to bring a police station and a community center to the district. (JW)
This six-way race to succeed Willis McCallister is all but certain to end in a runoff. Retired businessman Whit Whitmore, flower shop owner Sonny Crump, and Army veteran Bill Pugh are considered the leading contenders. The other candidates are Debra Joyce, director of the Black Health Care Commission; schoolteacher Keith Pitts; and automotive consultant James Taylor. (JW)
Elected in a runoff just last December to replace John Aaron Holt, who moved on to a General Sessions judgeship, Norma Hand insists her brief experience gives her an advantage. “I got a crash course in the departments and how they work,” she says. The super-sweet Hand, whose district includes the state’s Riverbend prison, says Metro needs to fill vacancies in the police and fire departments. Her opponent is Edward Whitmore. (MP)
There are three candidates in this Bellevue race, although only two of them seem actually to be runningincumbent Eric Crafton and retired Metro teachers’ union director Bob Bogen.
Disenfranchised constituents still steaming over Crafton’s about-face on the Wal-Mart development two years ago are coalescing behind Bogen, 72. He’s a staunch greenways advocate who essentially casts himself as the neighborhood-friendly candidate more interested in quality-of-life issues than Crafton, a homebuilder whom critics have tried to recall more than once.
Crafton, perhaps best known for his opposition to the stadium deal, is misunderstood. Congenial in nature and well-educatedan Army vet who speaks Japanese fluentlyhe’s smarter than most Council naysayers. (LMG)
It seems inevitable that John Summers will win the race in this West Nashville district, replacing the term-limited Horace Johns. But Summers, executive director of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, made numerous enemies during his two terms in the Council serving East Nashville (1983-1991). Many think he’s arrogant and hard to get along with.
One of his opponents, Whitney McFalls, a 31-year-old social worker, lives just two doors down the street from Summers. McFalls has the quiet aid of many Council members who remember the Summers era. Also running is former Council member Ralph Cohen, who has very obviously dragged his old political signs from the basement for viewing on White Bridge Road. (LMG)
Two young-gun candidates are running neck and neck to replace outgoing Councilman Durward Hall. Hemal Tailor, 28, who has won most of the major endorsements including police and labor, may be the slight favorite. The University of Tennessee grad says people in her Antioch district are worried about commercial development coming into residential areas. “We need to consult the neighborhoods a lot more than we are now,” says Tailor, who works for the state as a senior legislative research analyst.
Jason Alexander no not the guy who played ‘George’says that in going door-to-door, the No. 1 issue is crime. “There’s a great fear factor in this area,” he says. Asked what distinguishes him from his opponent, Alexander points out that he has lived in the district for 25 years and that he has seen its evolution first hand.
A confident Tailor responds that she is simply the more qualified candidate, given her experience in government and her masters degree in public administration. “I know who to call, when to call them and why to call. I think that’s going to be very important.”
Tom Stinson, the other candidate listed on the ballot, has endorsed Tailor. (MP)
Pity poor Saletta Holloway. In 1995, she was elected largely due to a protest vote against John Kincaid, a rather divisive personality whose assorted antics earned the disapproval of his district and the enmity of the mayor. But now with few accomplishments of her own and a reputation for not returning phone calls, Holloway might not even make the runoff in this crowded four-candidate contest. Her district, which borders Rutherford County, hasn’t elected an incumbent in 24 years.
Legal assistant Tom Bradley is considered the favorite. Bradley, who promises to be more accessible than the incumbent, says the big issues are traffic and crime. “It infuriates me that when I walk outside my office door downtown, I’ll see two or three officers on foot [and] one or two on bike patrol, when we have only one officer patrolling our neighborhood,” he says. Bradley’s opponents are Kincaid and Paul Collins, both of whom ran in the last election. (MP)
Political newcomers Deborah Duncan and Michael Kerstetter are waging a close contest to succeed Leroy Hollis, who isn’t seeking reelection. In the rapidly growing, ethnically diverse Tusculum district, education is the top issue for both candidates. Duncan, a community activist, emphasizes the need for neighborhood schools. Kerstetter, a customer service representative at First American National Bank, calls for safer schools and smaller class sizes. (JW)
A runoff is likely in this South Nashville district, with four candidates vying for the seat of the term-limited Tom Alexander. The favorites are ex-sheriff’s worker Don Knoch and retired phone company employee Edward Knight. Alexander has endorsed Knight, who fought with the councilman in the “Stop the Quarry” campaign. Also running are Richard Aley, who challenged Alexander four years ago, and Leon Hampton. (JW)
In this Green Hills district, incumbent Ron Turner is a heavy favorite against James Cardwell, a retired Metro police sergeant. Turner works as an attorney at the Neal & Harwell law firm. (JW)
Voters can’t go wrong in this wealthy district that includes Belle Meade and parts of West Meade and Green Hills. David Berndt seems to be spending the most money, placing ads on bus benches and billboards. Well-spoken and tactfully persistent, Berndt mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Belle Meade’s city commission last fall.
He is joined in the race to replace the term-limited Charles Fentress by Pat Miller, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. John Wilder. Miller promises to oppose property tax increases and to donate his Council salary to schools. Both Miller and Berndt received the endorsement of the Davidson County Republican Party. The third candidate is Lynn Williams, who’s campaigning for planned growth and improving schools. (MP)
Incumbent Vic Lineweaver, one of the Council’s more developer-friendly members, might have been the luckiest man in Metro when his lone opponent Daniel Prentice was ruled ineligible because he hadn’t lived in the community long enough. Prentice, you may recall, taped a phone conversation with Lineweaver in which the incumbent seemingly tried to cajole him into dropping out of the race by assuring him a board spot.
But now Lineweaver faces well-regarded write-in candidate Walter Pritchett, who has won the support of residents upset that Lineweaver initially filed a rezoning bill to allow a Luby’s restaurant in their district. Says Pritchett, “The feeling of the residents I spoke with is that he’s more interested in representing the developers than the residents of the 35th district.” Write-in candidates face an uphill battle, but Lineweaver is vulnerable. (MP)
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