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Obama fundraiser, real estate exec considers run for Nashville mayor

10:08 AM, Nov 28, 2012   |    comments
Bill Freeman /The Tennessean
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By Nate Rau, The Tennessean

Real estate executive Bill Freeman, who raised more than $500,000 for President Barack Obama's re-election bid this year, is mulling a run for Nashville mayor in 2015.

Freeman said he believes he'd make a good mayor, but added that he hasn't set a deadline for when he'll make a decision.

"I've not made any decisions on that, pro or con," Freeman said. "I'm intrigued by the possibility of a businessperson looking at it. But I'm also intrigued with the crop of candidates that are considering it."

Freeman's had an on-again, off-again relationship with the state Democratic Party. He served a brief stint as the party's treasurer but ultimately stepped aside amid sharp criticisms about his prior contributions to Republican candidates and political action committees.

Freeman stood in regular opposition to former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, dating back to Bredesen's time as Nashville mayor. But he also showed off his fundraising prowess in 2012. Freeman, who was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, was ranked as a top bundler for the Obama campaign this year.

Freeman indicated that he would veer to the left on social issues - he would have opposed the English-only referendum and supported the Metro Council bill protecting gay city workers from employment discrimination.

Metro lobbyist Joe Hall said Freeman would likely intrigue the business community as a mayoral candidate. He is the co-founder of real estate firm Freeman Webb, which was named the top property management company in the country in 2010 by the National Association of Home Builders.

'Still just watching'

"Somebody like me would be a great mayor," Freeman said. "I'm still just watching the race and looking at it. I'm vitally interested in who our next mayor is."

Freeman said current Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who didn't enter the 2007 race until December 2006, "set a pretty good road map to follow."

Hall said the challenge for any mayoral candidate is to earn the support of the business community without being labeled the "business candidate," which can turn off voters more concerned with neighborhood preservation. Hall pointed out that Freeman Webb's headquarters in Green Hills is a LEED-certified Gold building, which could demonstrate an environmental conscience that would appeal to voters.

"I think Bill Freeman has a capability of raising a lot of money in a short period of time," Hall said. "At this position in the race, which is very early by any measure, Bill Freeman is an intriguing name because he's a new name in a field that's an old crowd (of sitting elected officials).

"Bill Freeman, or any other candidate, can't be the business candidate. He's going to have to talk about where Nashville is going and talk about a vision for a city that's clearly on the rise."

Dean, who emerged from a crowded field to win in 2007 and then easily won re-election in 2011, is term-limited and can't seek re-election.

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