Nashville mayor’s race: TV spending points at the voters candidates are targeting

Candidates are spending the most money on NewsChannel 5, while Fox News tops the cable category.

By: - July 6, 2023 6:01 am
Ten of the 12 candidates for Nashville mayor at the May 10 Arts and Entertainment Forum. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Ten of the 12 candidates for Nashville mayor at the May 10 Arts and Entertainment Forum. (Photo: John Partipilo)

As Nashville’s mayor’s race enters its final month, seven of the 12 candidates, one political action committee and a downtown bar owner have spent money on television and social media advertisements as part of the campaign.

Candidates are spending the most money at WVTF-NewsChannel 5, as local stations have grabbed the largest amount of advertising dollars in the race, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission public inspection files as of July 5.

On cable television, Fox News is drawing the most money of any station, partly because Republican strategist Alice Rolli has spent all her campaign’s TV dollars at the conservative-leaning news network.

Among the seven candidates spending money, three made their first ad purchases July.

Candidates are also spending significantly more money on television than social media advertisements, according to data collected by Facebook and Google’s political ad databases.

Television and social media spending doesn’t always indicate support for candidates but provides a peek into the type of voters candidates want to reach and how much they have raised or personally put into the race.

Former Alliance Bernstein executive Jim Gingrich and former Metro Nashville official Matt Wiltshire have significantly outspent the rest of the field, Gingrich due to his personal wealth — loaning his campaign $2 million — and Wiltshire because of significant fundraising and an early start.

Wiltshire and Metro Nashville council members Freddie O’Connell and Sharon Hurt were the only candidates to enter the race before Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced he wasn’t running in February.

O’Connell and Rolli started their advertising spends at the end of June.

Hurt and Democratic state Sen. Jeff Yarbro bought their first television advertisements in the first week of July. Gingrich and Wiltshire started buying air time in late April and have consistently advertised since then.

Democratic state Sen. Heidi Campbell campaign purchased her first television advertisement purchase on July 6.

Non-candidates to enter the spending spree include Lower Broadway bar owner Steve Smith and a political action committee named Save Nashville.

Nashville mayoral candidates Jeff Yarbro, Freddie O'Connell and Matt Wiltshire backstage before a June 15 forum at Nashville Children's Theater. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Nashville mayoral candidates Jeff Yarbro, Freddie O’Connell and Matt Wiltshire backstage before a June 15 forum at Nashville Children’s Theater. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Smith is running advertisements against O’Connell, while Save Nashville’s campaign, which has yet to release its advertisement, is set to start on July 10 on WZTV-Fox 17 and WKRN-News 2.

Across the landscape, Gingrich has advertised at the top four Nashville television news stations, the top three cable news networks and various non-news television shows.

Gingrich has spent the most money on every station except for WZTV-Fox 17 and WKRN-News 2, where Wiltshire has spent more.

Natisha Brooks, Fran Bush, Bernie Cox, Stephanie Johnson and Vivian Wilhoite have yet to spend any money on TV or social media advertisements, according to the FCC and social media databases.

Nashville’s municipal election is on August 3, with early voting starting on July 14.

This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. on July 6.


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Adam Friedman
Adam Friedman

Adam Friedman is a reporter with the Tennessee Lookout. He has a particular love for data and using numbers to explain all kinds of topics. If you have a story idea, he'd love to hear it. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 615-249-8509.