Jason Holleman was relieved.
The incumbent District 24 Metro Councilman sat at a picnic table in the front yard of his Park Avenue home on election night surrounded by a throng of family, friends and supporters as his wife, Margaret, snuck past them to hug her husband.
“I’m so, so happy,” she said, kissing him to a round of applause.
A little more than a half hour after the closure of polls at 7 p.m., Holleman received a call from his opponent, Sarah Lodge Tally, who conceded one of the most contentious — and arguably most talked about — Metro Council races of this election cycle.
“She was very gracious,” Holleman said of Tally’s concession. “She simply congratulated me on my win and told me I had won Sylvan Park.”
For the past few months, Holleman withstood an aggressive challenger who had amassed a substantial war chest and benefited from significant political and financial backing by Mayor Karl Dean and a veritable who’s-who list of the state Democratic establishment, including former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
With 71 percent of precincts reporting, Holleman led 59 percent to 41 percent. Holleman carried all six of District 24’s precincts.
Of those precincts, West End Middle turned out to be the race’s true battleground, primarily because the area was added to the district after apportionment in April, brining an influx of voters who were not as familiar with the incumbent as the rest of the original district.
In his victory speech, Holleman thanked his supporters for their efforts.
“Thank you all for everything you have done for us this summer,” he said. “It has been an exciting, stressful, fun, angstful summer. This campaign was about, from the very beginning, our friends our family and the neighborhoods who make up this council district. We could not have done this without you.”
Neither Tally nor her campaign manager, Russell Riebeling, could be reached for comment.
Tally's campaign to oust Holleman had been widely viewed as a reckoning against his criticism of the $585 million Music City Center convention center, which attracted the ire of the mayor’s office and its politically connected supporters, who poured substantial sums into Tally’s war chest. For example, from April to June, her campaign raised $50,301.23, compared to Holleman’s $30,651.73, raised between April 1 and June 30.
During the campaign, she criticized Holleman for his votes against funding the convention center, and disseminated mailers featuring photos of her and the mayor.
Holleman responded by emphasizing his ties to the district. He said the convention center issue became the centerpiece of her campaign.
“It was clearly one of her primary stated reasons for running against me,” he said. “A significant amount of the money that went into her campaign came from convention center boosters. Meanwhile, my money was raised by the constituents of District 24.”
Outgoing District 6 councilman Mike Jameson, who attended the victory party and worked with the Holleman campaign, told The City Paper he was happy with the results.
“I think it indicates that there’s an appreciation for a council that serves as a check and balance against the executive branch,” Jameson said, “and that independent thought is not an offense but is, in fact, part of our job description.”
Holleman is hopeful that, with the race behind him, he can forge a more constructive relationship with the mayor.
“Obviously I hope we can find common ground, because that’s far more productive than the alternative,” he said. “But, as they have been over the past four years, my constituents will continue to be my first priority over the next four as well.”