Satire and smears: Third-party groups enter Nashville elections
A satirical website aimed at mayoral candidate Alice Rolli is the latest entry to deliver last-minute slings and arrows
Screenshot of the satirical Alice Rolli 23 website, launched Thursday by comic and political satirist Toby Morton.
With a week left in Nashville’s mayoral race, filmmaker and political satirist Toby Morton has launched a website aimed at candidate Alice Rolli, who faces Freddie O’Connell in the runoff.
In recent years, Morton has created satirical websites for Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, as well as for national figures including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The Rolli site, AliceRolli23.com, launched Thursday morning and features a photo of Rolli at former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, an essay Rolli penned for her high school paper about gun carry and a list of purported endorsements — including from Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Trump. Neither have endorsed Rolli.
“Lately I’ve become more aware of the smaller/local races as being just as important as the larger ones,” said Morton. “The fact that Alice Rolli will have the power to make decisions for Nashville with her ideology is frightening. She’s just as bad if not worse than Speaker Sexton and Trump. She’s just better at hiding her views, and that’s something Nashville should be worried about.”
Under a tab labeled, “Tennessee’s Future,” the site also links to O’Connell’s campaign website.
Morton, who does not live in Tennessee, said he has not met either Rolli or O’Connell.
The Rolli campaign did not respond to a request for comment by publication time; the O’Connell campaign said it was not familiar with Morton.
Rolli caught flak soon after the Aug. 3 general election, when her campaign fired a consultant with ties to the Proud Boys, a white nationalist hate group.
A pro-Rolli PAC, Save Nashville, has been airing ads with footage of other cities, including Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, calling them “complete disasters” and implying that if O’Connell is elected mayor, Nashville will follow the same path.
But the mayor’s race isn’t the only one in which candidate smears have been employed.
In Metro Council District 11, a PAC formed on Aug. 31 — election laws specify that PACs cannot form within 10 days of an election — sent homophobic mailers to voters in the district targeting council candidate Eric Patton, a member of the LGBTQ community. The mail piece featured a photograph of Patton wearing a tank top that says “Queer and Tired,” and compares him unfavorably with candidate Jeff Eslick.
“We would like to clarify that we are in no way affiliated with the Old Hickory Community Association and denounce their homophobic mailer that was sent to members of our community this week,” Tyler Sainato, Historic Old Hickory Village Neighborhood Association President, said in a statement. “While we remain impartial in the council race, hate has no place in any campaign or our community.”
Sean Meloy, the vice president of the LGBQ+ Victory Fund, said the “dark money PAC” attacked Patton for “being who is.”
“This hateful rhetoric should have no place in public life, but sadly this group has taken its cues from Jeff Eslick as he continues a campaign based on culture wars,” Meloy said.
The LGBQ+ Victory Fund is a national PAC dedicated to electing LGBTQ+ public officials.
The runoff election is Sept. 14.
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