Green eases past Kelly in 7th Congressional District race

By: - November 9, 2022 12:46 am
Backed by his children, U.S. Rep. Mark Green thanks the crowd at Nashville's Millennium Maxwell House for electing him to a third term in Congress. (Photo: Nick Fantasia)

Backed by his children, U.S. Rep. Mark Green thanks the crowd at Nashville’s Millennium Maxwell House for electing him to a third term in Congress. (Photo: Nick Fantasia)

Despite the addition of a large section of Davidson County to the 7th District, Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Green sailed to a third term Tuesday over Democratic challenger Odessa Kelly.

By 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Green, an Ashland City Republican and former state senator, won 108,236 votes, 60%, to Kelly’s 68,871, 38.5% in a race that pitted polar opposites against each other. Kelly conceded to Green by about 10 p.m.

Green promised the same policies that help rural Perry County will benefit North Nashville, saying the “disasters” that caused high gas and grocery prices will work for both parts of the state.

“We’re going to get the government out of the way” and let parents get involved in education, Green said during a victory party as the returns came in at the Maxwell House Hotel in North Nashville. “And we’re going to get rid of the crazy spending in Washington, D.C.”

Congressman Mark Green talks with Eric Deems of Nashville on Election Night, Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo: Nick Fantasia)
Congressman Mark Green talks with Eric Deems of Nashville on Election Night, Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo: Nick Fantasia)

Green based most of his campaign against President Joe Biden’s policies, which the Republican congressman claims caused inflation to reach 8% as Americans emerged from the pandemic. He also harped on security problems at the Southern border and blamed the president for allowing people to migrate into the country and bring illegal drugs such as fentanyl with them.

Asked whether he plans to push for major cuts in Social Security and Medicare, Green said Tuesday he has never voted to harm those programs and doesn’t plan to in the future. He targeted elimination of the U.S. Department of Education for a spending cut and Biden’s expansion of a New Green Deal.

A physician and Army veteran who nearly became the U.S. Army secretary six years ago before withdrawing amid controversy, Green criticized the state’s redistricting plan recently, calling it “inherently unfair” because he felt it catered to politicians rather than voters. Nevertheless, he overcame the handicap of having urban Democrats placed in his largely Republican district, which still had a majority of red voters.

Realigned in the redistricting earlier this year, the 7th Congressional District stretches from Montgomery and Henry counties at the Kentucky state line through much of western Middle Tennessee to Wayne County at the Alabama line and over to northern and western Davidson County.

Green said he looks forward to representing historically black colleges and universities in Nashville, as well as the hospitals and medical schools in the district.

Odessa Kelly works on the porch of her East Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Odessa Kelly works on the porch of her East Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Kelly, a North Nashville resident and community organizer who previously worked for Metro Parks and Recreation, got into the race when it was clear the Legislature was going to split Davidson County into three congressional districts.

Despite the loss, Kelly said she put up a strong argument for her candidacy, which focused on working-class people and civil rights. She gathered supporters at a Germantown restaurant as the returns came in.

Kelly, an openly gay Black woman bashed the Republican-controlled Legislature’s redistricting plan, accusing leaders of gerrymandering districts to dilute Black voters and guarantee and GOP victory.

The Democrat said she raised right at $1 million and spent more than $890,000, according to the latest federal reports.

Yet she had to overcome an incumbent who spent some $1.7 million and had name recognition in a large part of the district entering the race. Green purchased TV advertising only at the end of the election cycle, while Kelly focused her campaign on social media and knocking on doors.



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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.

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