The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt community optimistic, cautious about Freddie O’Connell’s victory in Nashville mayoral runoff election

District council member Freddie O’Connell (D) won the Nashville mayoral runoff election on Sept. 14.
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Michael Tung
Freddie O’Connell’s campaign signs at a polling location in Edgehill, as photographed on Sept. 14, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Michael Tung)

Vanderbilt students, alumni and professors reacted with optimism and caution to Metro Nashville Council member Freddie O’Connell winning the Nashville mayoral runoff election on Sept. 14, following the first round of voting on Aug. 3. 

O’Connell, a Democrat, won 64% of the vote to beat Republican Alice Rolli, who won 36%. A total of 114,226 votes were cast in the runoff election. When he launched his campaign in April 2022, O’Connell expected to go up against incumbent Mayor John Cooper. However, Cooper announced he would not seek reelection for a second term in January, just six months before the first election.

Vanderbilt students and alumni were involved in the campaign efforts for O’Connell. Senior Katey Parham and alumna Shun Ahmed (‘22) both worked with the campaign and told The Hustler that they look forward to Nashville’s future under O’Connell’s leadership. 

“I was beyond excited to work on a multi-racial, multi-generational campaign that was truly built by and for the people,” Parham said. “Nashville is in great hands under Mayor O’Connell’s leadership, and I am excited to see Nashville grow and change for the better.”

Ahmed said her goal now is to hold Cooper accountable for his campaign promises.

“On Day One, we joked that the same people working for him would be the same people arguing with him, but that really shows how much we care. We know he will at least listen when needed, which has become hope for many of us,” Ahmed said. “It’ll be nice for Nashville to live, move and grow like it needs to for the families now.”

During his time on the Metro Council, O’Connell has voiced opposition to the use of public funds for the construction of a new Tennessee Titans stadium and advocated for increased public transportation in Nashville. O’Connell is set to take office within days so he can be sworn in before the Oct. 3 Metro Council meeting. 

The runoff ballot also included four at-large Metro Council seats and three district seats. Among those newly elected is Olivia Hill, who won one of the four runoff at-large council seats. Hill makes history as the first transgender person elected to office in Tennessee. 

Hill was a previous employee of Vanderbilt University, working for almost 26 years at the Vanderbilt Power Plant. In September 2021, she filed a lawsuit against the university for workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and disability. Just a few months later, she reached a settlement with the university with which she was “very pleased.” She announced her retirement from Vanderbilt on Dec. 27, 2021 — the day the lawsuit was settled. 

Political science professors Joshua Clinton and John Geer both commented that they were not surprised by the results of the election, as O’Connell ran a “textbook campaign” in a Democratic-leaning city. O’Connell’s landslide victory in the runoff was expected, as Nashville has not elected a Republican mayor in the 60 years since it was consolidated with Davidson County. 

Recall that Biden defeated Trump 64.5% to 32.4% in Davidson County in 2020 — nearly the exact same margin as the Nashville mayoral runoff election,” Clinton said.

“Winning nearly two-thirds of the vote against a quality opponent, Alice Rolli, is truly impressive,” Geer said. “If he builds consensus as mayor to solve our problems, as he did during the campaign, Nashville will continue its rise.”

Vanderbilt College Democrats President Chase Mandell said the organization is “delighted” that O’Connell won the election. 

At a time where participation in the democratic process is so important, we hope that this election demonstrates how important a vote is to the state of our democracy,” Mandell said. “We look forward to O’Connell’s term and applaud the efforts of his entire campaign team, who worked tirelessly to make this victory possible.”

Vanderbilt College Republicans Secretary Noah Jenkins offered congratulations to O’Connell on behalf of VCR.

“Although, as a conservative organization, we certainly disagree with his ‘progressive’ policy approach, we nonetheless remain cautiously optimistic and hope he will do a great job serving all Nashvillians,” Jenkins said.

In a statement to The Hustler, Vandy Votes, a nonpartisan student organization, expressed enthusiasm about the active part students and faculty played in the election.

“Although many students are registered to vote in their home states, it is important for all students to participate in every election, especially local elections, to ensure their voices are heard,” the statement reads.

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About the Contributors
Arman Amin, Staff Writer
Arman Amin (‘27) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in political science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find him listening to music, going for a run or spending time with friends. You can reach him at [email protected].
Michael Tung, Staff Photographer
Michael Tung ('26) is majoring in computer science. He is currently a staff photographer and is originally from Dublin, Ohio. His interests are photography, engineering, all things aerospace and music. He can be reached at [email protected]
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