Sen. Jack Johnson becomes an issue in Nashville mayor’s race

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jack Johnson’s endorsement of David Fox has become an issue in the Nashville mayoral campaign, reports The Tennessean. Fox’s opponent in the mayoral runoff election, Megan Barry, “slammed” Fox — and Johnson — during a debate.

She raised the conservative senator’s support of Fox when the two mayoral candidates had a chance to ask their opponent one question during the second televised mayoral debate, sponsored by Vanderbilt University and WTVF-TV.

Barry, who is backed by every Democratic state lawmaker in Democrat-leaning Nashville, referenced a “Boots and Jeans, BBQ and Beans” fundraiser Johnson held in Franklin on Sunday in which presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a campaign stop. With Fox on hand, Johnson publicly endorsed Fox’s mayoral candidacy.

Barry singled out Johnson’s vote for a controversial state bill that nixed local bans on people with handgun permits taking their guns into parks. He’s also expressed opposition to a Metro Charter amendment voters approved this month to set new local-hire regulations for Metro-financed construction projects.

“David, you’ve made a point throughout this race to say that you are a centrist and that you’re focused on Nashville,” Barry said. “But yesterday, you left Nashville to get the endorsement of a Republican legislator who is focused on overturning the will of Nashville. That senator you got an endorsement from has mandated that we have to have guns in our parks and has now said he wants to stop the local-hire measure, which was just passed by Nashville voters.

“How can we trust that you’re actually going to look after the best interests of Nashville when you’re actively courting conservative lawmakers who want to overturn the will of Nashville voters?”

…”If anybody wants to endorse me, I take it,” Fox said. “I accept any endorsements. I won’t discriminate against anyone who wants to endorse my candidacy. I appreciate that. So, I had a good day yesterday. It was very productive and then today was even better: I got the fraternal order of police endorsement, and I wasn’t expecting that.”

Barry fired back, “It sounds like you had a great day, and I’m excited about that for you,” but she added that Nashvillians need someone who is “going to fight for them.”

The exchange underscored the partisan overtones of a race that has no party labels. Fox, who has won the support of many Nashville conservatives, has sought to paint Barry as an extreme far-left liberal throughout the mayoral runoff.

…Nashville’s two Republican lawmakers, state Sen. Steve Dickerson and House Speaker Beth Harwell, both told The Tennessean they would not be publicly endorsing a candidate in Nashville’s mayoral runoff

Note: See also Andrea Zelinski, who talked with Johnson:

“I didn’t think it’d be that big of a deal that I’m supporting David Fox. I still don’t think it is”…The race in the county to the North sparked his interest after a voter-approved referendum in the August election required contractors hire local residents to work 40 percent of the construction hours on most Metro-funded projects, he said. Despite high-profile opposition from the business community and Mayor Karl Dean, voters overwhelmingly approved the change, although the next mayor will have a hand in how to implement it.

“We’re talking about not just the major metropolitan area or the city of Nashville. We’re talking about greater Middle Tennessee. And it’s also our capital city, so what happens there has a tremendous impact,” said Johnson who said he is opposed to Amendment 3 and may challenge it at the state level. “When you look at the mayors we had over the last 20 years or so with Phil Bredesen, Bill Purcell, Karl Dean, all of them are Democrats, but they were reasonable, common sense. They were pro-business. That’s what we need in Nashville and that’s one of the reasons Nashville is really doing well. I just think that David Fox would be a continuation of that.”