NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This August, Nashvillians will head to the polls to vote in the Metropolitan General Election.

Earlier this year, Mayor John Cooper announced he would not be seeking re-election, creating a wide-open field of candidates in the race to be the 10th mayor of Metro Nashville.

News 2 submitted questionnaires to each of the candidates running for Nashville mayor. The form featured six questions addressing some of Music City’s biggest issues. One of those issues candidates were asked about would be repairing the relationship between Metro Nashville and the state government.

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The relationship between the general assembly and the local government has been tested significantly this year, as the legislature introduced bills that would severely restrict Metro’s ability to govern itself and its assets.

Below you will find the answers candidates submitted for the question: If elected, how would you work to repair the relationship between the Metro Nashville government and the state government? (Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.)

Natisha Brooks

“Currently, visit and work with have relationships with State Legislators to understand upcoming bills that might affect Nashville. That commitment would continue throughout my time as mayor. Funding for Nashville post Covid is crucial to our necessities for survival with many Nashville Citizens. Moreover, will start and complete a great relationship with the Metro Council regarding communication on matters such as National Conventions – RNC/DNC/Church Conventions and all other major conventions that want to host their events here in Nashville. Conventions bring Billions of dollars and what monies brought to Nashville by events can ensure no increase in property taxes are needed in the future. There will be Daily meetings with the legislature through the mayor’s office when legislators are in Session.”

Fran Bush

“Open lines of communication are key to building a productive relationship between the Metro Government and the State Government. Both sides can try to establish more regular and open lines of communication. If I am elected, I will establish more regular and open lines of communication, such as regular meetings between the mayoral office and the state legislators to discuss issues and work towards a solution. Nashvillians are very frustrated with the lack of legislating for the people. Although there are certain areas where the Metro Government and State Government may have differences in opinion, it’s important to focus on areas such as one of our biggest issue is gun reform. Building trust is critical to repairing any strained relationships. Both sides could work to build trust by being transparent, keeping your word and committing to work collaboratively. Another very strong method of building relationships with the Metro Government and State Government could also involve community stakeholders, such as business leaders, nonprofits and civic organizations in discussions and planning around issues that affect both the city and the state.”

Heidi Campbell

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that our city is in the midst of an attempted hostile takeover by the state right now. Nashville needs a mayor with the temperament, experience, and relationships to navigate the complicated landscape ahead, especially when it comes to defending our city and our values. I have worked with colleagues across the aisle to save two thousand acres of hardwood forest, convince our governor to allocate $196M to the Department of Children Services, remove a judge who was illegally targeting and incarcerating black children, and pass dozens of bills to improve the lives of Nashvillians. I believe my experience as a former mayor and current state senator make me an excellent candidate to bridge the gap between our state and metropolitan government.”

Bernie Cox

“Perhaps this question is aimed at House Bill 48 that would reduce metropolitan councils from 40 to 20 members. The argument is whether or not legislature has the authority to encroach on the local government.

I am a strong supporter to eliminate waste in the government. Eliminate, or at best, reduce our spending problem. This will be a challenge as previous administrations have incurred obligations for us, but we must not only try, we must do it.  When it comes to politics as usual, the government is the problem, not the solution.  It will be one of my top priorities on a weekly basis to roll up our sleeves, identify the ineffective and inefficient programs and close them. That will not make my administration popular with those affected, and will likely garner negative press at every turn, but I’m not running for the Most Popular Politician award. I’m running to solve problems for Nashville with intentions to work uniformly with state government.”

Jim Gingrich

“The fact is, the Nashville region accounted for nearly 50% of the economic growth of the state over the last ten years, and the sour relationship affects not only Nashville but our neighboring counties. We must build relationships with our surrounding counties to address the challenges we collectively face. The relationship between Nashville and Tennessee became this broken because we have politicians trying to score points, thinking about their next reelection or how they’re going to get to the next office rather than doing what’s right for the people who live in the city, live in the region, and live in the state. I’ve negotiated successfully with the state, and I’ve also disagreed publicly with the state. We need a leader who can repair the relationship and make sure both governments are working for the best interest of the city and state.”

Sharon Hurt

“My plan is to leverage this common interest between the city and state to make this work. Communication is everything, understanding and being understood. I believe the state’s meddling with Nashville is an overreach. I don’t believe the state is taking a cooperative stance and that if the city concedes to one thing, the state will just keep trying to push more. It is hypocritical that the state would take a state’s right stance with the federal government but then abuse their power to interfere with city rights. Nashville is the economic engine of the state, so much of the state tax revenue comes from us, and the state knows that. They need to cooperate with us for the sake of both of us.”

Stephanie Johnson

“I don’t like wild goose chases, I prefer planning ahead. We saw recently city council members attempting to help where they could, but not a concentrated organized effort to ensure nothing was missed. While one council member might alert us to a new bill, it’s more of a type of free for all with who takes it and tries to stop it. What if we have an organized system where our state policy team worked on the hill, interfering with bills coming down the pipeline and organizing citizens to dismantle them before they even hit the news? That is the type of work I will bring to Metro. It’s time to stop playing defense and go on the offense. This is the only way Nashville wins. We will have an office of political engagement (state policy team)- teaching citizens how to lobby, how government works and much more to have a very engaged city.”

Freddie O’Connell

“Here’s the thing: I’m willing to revisit the relationship between Metro Nashville and the state government, but it needs to come from a place where Nashville asserts our power. Until our city has a strong mayor willing to stand up for its residents, the state will continue to encroach on our rights.

Our city—and cities like ours—are the economic engines of the state. It is our people—and our policies—that have brought in the money that these state legislators use to improve their far-away counties and to fund state-based programs. We have options to fight back, and we should start by reopening negotiations around the shiny objects they want to build in Nashville, like a stadium for tourists using Nashvillians’ money.

There are some candidates who have more experience working with the state than with Metro, and some of them are telling voters they can fix this problem. But ask yourself this: if someone in this race says they have the secret to solving this issue, why is it worse than ever? I think voters will be looking for a candidate with deep experience knowing how to be effective in local government knowing that the state might create obstacles and constraints. I’m that candidate.

I intend to overinvest in relationships offline with the governor, leadership in both chambers of the state legislature, and committee chairs. This won’t fix the issue, but it will at least allow us to step away from dunks on social media, a very active rumor mill, and statements to media and focus on how we govern together.”

Alice Rolli

“Trust is repaired by acknowledging and then solving problems, together.

Frequently Nashville voters have found themselves so frustrated with inaction at Nashville’s City Hall, they have gone to the state for relief. Specifically, when our schools would not re-open during COVID, parents in Nashville petitioned the state to get our schools reopened for learning. With crime rising downtown, business owners became so frustrated that they petitioned the state to allow them to have

their own police force downtown. Today a completely separate police force, with arrest provisions, operates in order to manage public safety downtown.

Similarly, the management of our city’s finances has caused deep challenges and frustrations between both the state and Metro Nashville government. Our current Metro-Davidson County budget has $413 million taxpayer dollars to service Davidson County’s debt. In contrast, the debt service of the entire state of Tennessee and all its 95 counties is $342 million.

To rebuild trust, both sides must acknowledge the extent of the challenge before us to improve Nashville’s fiscal position, ensure that our kids are reading on grade level, and to reduce crime.

My experience working both at the federal level for retired U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and the state level as Asst. Commissioner for Economic and Community Development for Gov. Bill Haslam provides me with a unique blend of relationships which we can put to work on day one to better leverage state and federal dollars to effectively solve problems for our citizens. In acknowledging our challenges and finding solutions, together, we will repair this critical relationship.”

Vivian Wilhoite

“First, I believe that our Metro Council should not have kept the Republican National Committee from coming to Nashville. The First Amendment, and Freedom of Assembly, does not get to choose sides, especially partisan sides. It is unfortunate that our city is being punished for the Metro Council’s decision. However, we all must move forward to find common ground where we can agree. I would meet frequently with members of the Metro Council and our state government leaders to keep the communication lines open.

As Mayor, I will make the effort to work with all our leaders in government, businesses, and faith organizations. It is critical that my administration focus on the common goal of servant leadership, for all people, and avoid the partisan fighting where possible.”

Matt Wiltshire

“The relationship between Nashville and the state is fundamentally broken right now. Bridging this gap and stopping future politically-motivated attacks on Nashville begins with building relationships between the Mayor, the Governor, and the legislature. I have a proven track record of working with the state from my time in the Mayor’s Office and repairing the current divide will be an early priority of mine as mayor. I will note that when we develop relationships it doesn’t mean we compromise our core principles – in fact it puts us in a stronger position to stand up for our principles. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Getting this fixed is important because neither the city nor the state will be successful if we don’t work together.”

Jeff Yarbro

“I’ve served on the front lines of the disputes between Metro Nashville and the Tennessee General Assembly, and the status quo is unsustainable. The scope and extent of conflicts threaten not only the future of the city, but the overall prosperity of the State. The State Constitution requires and wise government dictates that local decisions should be made by local government, and no one should serve as Nashville’s next Mayor if they’re not willing to stand up for the city, its residents, and their rights to self-government. But it would be foolhardy to simply hope that a new Mayor can just go have a few lunch meetings and put the city-state relationship back on track. Instead, the next Mayor should build a coherent strategy both to avoid and navigate conflicts and to build partnerships whenever and wherever possible.

Based on my experience working with legislative leaders for most of the last decade, that strategy should have three key components: (1) communicating consistently and frequently with the Governor, key executive branch departments, and state legislators, particularly those in leadership; (2) focusing on common ground, common interests, and common sense so that our partnerships and joint undertakings become more notable than our conflicts, and (3) building coalitions within the city and across the state. In my work over three gubernatorial terms and working with four Nashville mayors, I know what it looks like when Nashville’s political, business, and civic leadership is working together.

When that happens, we are a force that is nearly impossible to stop. When we’re divided, the legislature can pick us apart. Given the unprecedented conflict between the Capitol and the Metro Courthouse, it is mission-critical to rebuild the coalition of the city.”

To read candidates’ answers to the other questions submitted addressing some of Music City’s biggest issues, click here.

The Metropolitan General Election takes place on August 3. A runoff will be held on September 14, if necessary.