In an outcome few Metro observers expected, Rachel Bell handily won the Democratic primary for a Davidson County General Sessions judgeship, knocking off Mike Jameson, who was appointed to the bench in the fall.
Bell, a 34-year-old attorney who has practiced law for seven years, beat Jameson, a former two-term Metro councilman, by a relatively wide vote margin, 8,649 to 6,294 (54 percent to 39 percent).
Jack Byrd finished a distant third, with 1,203 votes (7 percent).
When contacted by The City Paper, Bell cited her favorite Biblical expression.
“But God!” Bell said. “That’s all I would like to say. If you just put that in the paper, that will be enough for me.
“ ‘But God!’ means any and everything you need, you have faith in him, and you work hard, God will give you the vision,” she said.
With her victory, Bell is the heavy favorite to defeat independent candidate Michael Rowan in the August general election for General Sessions Division 8 judge. If she does, Bell would become the second African-American and fourth female of the 11 presiding Davidson County General Sessions judges.
Jameson, an attorney since 1990 and East Nashville councilman from 2003-11, was appointed General Sessions judge by the Metro Council in November to replace the late Leon Rueben. Jameson will continue serving on the bench until the general election is decided this summer.
“It’s certainly no fun losing, but I am grateful of the fact that the result at least creates a bit more diversity on the bench,” Jameson said. “Rachel was right. That is a necessary element that she brings.”
Bell’s win Tuesday added up to something of a local political shocker. Based on virtually every metric, Jameson was labeled the frontrunner.
Jameson had a campaign war chest of $88,000, more than double Bell’s fundraising figure, an advantage Jameson used to air a television commercial. In a poll of Nashville Bar Association members, 49 percent “highly recommended” Jameson for the job, while only 7 percent did the same for Bell. Twenty percent of respondents didn’t recommend Bell.
Jameson enjoyed support of local politicos with big names, including: former Mayor Bill Purcell; council members Megan Barry, Jerry Maynard, Ronnie Steine, Tim Garrett, Jason Holleman, Emily Evans; and state Reps. Mike Turner and Mike Stewart.
But a low turnout Democratic primary that consisted of only down-ballot races proved unpredictable. Bell won with room to spare.
“I think she ran an excellent campaign,” Jameson said. “She’s to be commended for that.”