August 8, 2023 7:00am

Mayoral Runoff Power Poll: O’Connell Very Strong

Members overwhelmingly say the progressive will defeat the conservative

Photo of Bruce Dobie
Nashville, TN Correspondent

Power Poll members by a very large margin say they plan to vote for the progressive Freddie O’Connell over the conservative Alice Rolli in the Sept. 14 runoff.

Meanwhile, when Power Pollers are asked who they predict will win the race, the margins tilt even more in O’Connell’s favor. Some four in five members say O’Connell will be our next mayor, while only one in 10 say the race belongs to Rolli.

In so many ways, the contest is a repeat of the 2015 election. Then, as now, the election featured a large field. Voters in both elections picked the most left-leaning and right-leaning candidates who then headed to a runoff.

O’Connell, a Councilmember representing the downtown area, is a self-proclaimed progressive who often calls attention to his vote against the Titans stadium deal and his support for a more neighborhood-centric, as opposed to business-centric, agenda. Rolli, meanwhile, is a former Republican operative who worked in former Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration. In her campaign, she has vowed to oppose tax increases, crack down on crime, and potentially take over the city’s school system.

Here are the specific questions and answers to this Power Poll, which was conducted immediately after the mayor’s race results were known:

If history is our guide, O’Connell is certainly the favorite. Back in the eerily similar 2015 race, the left-leaning Barry ultimately went on to handily defeat the Republican Fox. That said, variables still abound.

There’s money. Republicans statewide—even nationwide—are likely to pull out their checkbooks given an opportunity to pull off an upset in a big city like Nashville. By the same token, there’s going to be an influx of blue money also. Given the opportunity to contribute against a Republican candidate, lots of Democrats won’t think twice.

Working against Rolli is the fact that over the last decade Nashville has seemed to have grown more Democratic, rather than less. While it’s true that there’s been an influx of weathly Republicans here fleeing anti-tax states, the numbers show our immigrants to be primarily of a Democratic hue.

Another variable is how adept Rolli will be in defining O’Connell as too lefty for the middle-of-the-road voters here. Make no mistake, she has few options at this point other than to package up some attack ads. Equally important will be O’Connell’s responses. A first rule of politics is not to let a punch go by without a counter-punch.

It’s going to get feisty in coming weeks.

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll