Nashville’s most ardent political diehards circled Davidson County’s May local election long ago.
But history suggests the vast majority of Nashvillians won’t vote come Election Day, this Tuesday, May 18 –– and that’s not factoring in the effect of a historic flood.
Previously, when the election had been scheduled for May 4, Davidson County Election Commission Administrator Ray Barrett had predicted only about 30,000 Nashville voters would visit the polls. Now with the date changed and with thousands of Nashvillians still reeling and recuperating from this month’s catastrophic level of flooding, it’s reasonable to assume that number could shrink.
“I don’t know how to read it now,” Barrett said of the election. “People, let’s face it, the flood is on their minds.”
Turnout aside, Nashville’s Great Flood of 2010 certainly put a wrinkle in the city’s countywide elections which always hard to predict in the first place.
Prior to May 1 — the Saturday the downpours started — candidates had been aggressively gearing up for the contest. Mailers had infiltrated voters’ mailboxes. A few candidates had paid big dollars to air campaign commercials on television. But as the city starts to recover from more than $1.56 billion in private property damages, campaigning has taken an abrupt backseat.
Beforehand, Councilman Michael Craddock, a candidate for Criminal Court Clerk, had gone on a daily assault accusing current clerk David Torrence of spending too much time away from his office. In the last two weeks, those charges suddenly stopped altogether.
“Campaigning has been the least of my priorities over the last 10 or 12 days,” said Craddock, whose Madison area district had some 250 homes flooded. “My church flooded. I’ve been helping out there. And I’ve been helping out in my district, watching out for those people.”
If victorious, Craddock said he won’t take part in any festivities.
“I’m not going to have a party or any celebration,” Craddock said. “I can’t do that in good conscience with as many people suffering in this town the way they are.”
Pre-flood Nashville saw Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite, one of several candidates challenging Vic Lineweaver for Juvenile Court Clerk, standing on street corners waiving to voters. It probably wouldn’t seem appropriate to employ the same strategy in the days following May 1.
“It has not been difficult to campaign because I have not been campaigning,” Wilhoite said. “Recognizing what has been going on, it made sense to not campaign. I wanted to give back to the community.”
Lineweaver, trying to stave off a total of six candidates in the Democratic primary, is seen as vulnerable after a series of recent negative headlines. But as he seeks a third term in office, he’s had his own flood situation to address.
Among the structures flooded from the overflowing Cumberland River two weeks ago was the Juvenile Justice Center. Flooding left the Juvenile Court clerk’s office with more than 12,000 wet court documents, a basement filled with water and the department’s car submerged in floodwater.