Perhaps sensing he’s the underdog, Metro Council District 6 candidate Dave Rich is taking shots against his opponent, Peter Westerholm, arguing the differences between the two “couldn’t be more stark.”
Westerholm bested Rich by a 900-697 margin during last week’s election, setting up a Sept. 15 runoff to determine a winner for the East Nashville district. Third-place finisher Hans Schmidt collected 526 votes last week. Schmidt has endorsed Westerholm.
Two days ago, Rich issued a statement saying the district needs someone who won’t “wilt under pressure by just being simply a vote for someone else’s interests.” Rich told The City Paper Friday that differences start with their professional lives: Rich is an attorney, while Westerholm works as a budget analyst for state government.
“I am required in my job to achieve tangible objectives for my clients,” Rich said. “The lives of my clients are affected by my performance. The other candidate’s only requirement is to show up to work for the government.”
Westerholm said his professional experience would serve him well on the council.
“I’ve been clear with everyone throughout the campaign that my background is in government,” Westerholm said. “I work in the budget office, which allows me to have an area of experience to deal with a lot of the challenges that we’ll be facing on the Metro Council in the years ahead.”
Rich also said he’s challenged Westerholm to a debate, but Westerholm’s campaign has been unwilling to engage.
“My campaign has tried to set a debate with Mr. Westerholm so that these contrasts between us on issues are clear to everyone before early voting starts on Aug. 26, and they have refused that debate,” Rich said.
But Westerholm said he’s happy to take part in a forum if groups — neighborhood associations, for example — are interested in holding one.
“I’ve not heard from anyone who is interested in a debate,” Westerholm said, adding that all candidates took part in a forum several weeks ago. Westerholm also said his campaign had already organized events on the dates for debate the Rich campaign proposed.
In Rich’s statement, the only major policy difference he cites involves a property tax increase. Rich says a tax increase isn’t necessary, but accuses Westerholm of supporting a tax hike.
“What I’ve said is that there are a number of things that we may need to consider looking ahead to fund future budgets,” Westerholm said. “I think that if we get to a point where, in order to provide a proper level of services that citizens expect and require, a property tax should be a part of that discussion.”