Derby Jones and John McBryde
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Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and four other candidates looking to stave off a veritable takeover of the city scored landslide victories in Tuesday’s municipal election.
Through a campaign season that was controversial and at times came with bizarre twists and turns, Moore defeated challenger Gabrielle Hanson by a count of 12,822 votes to 3,322. Hanson touted herself as a savior of sorts for a city that’s “beginning to crumble,” but voters showed in record numbers that would not be the case.
Also winning easily were Alderman-at-Large Brandy Blanton, who defeated Gary Moore, and Alderman-at-Large Ann Petersen over Jeff Feldman. Greg Caesar takes over the alderman-at-large seat vacated by Hanson by beating Patrick George and BK Muvvala. Clyde Barnhill ran unopposed for his alderman-at-large seat.
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore shared a joyous evening with supporters at the Harpeth Hotel. Moore, who ran unopposed in his last election in 2019, faced a challenge from Alderman Hanson, who recently claimed, “You will reap what you sow,” amongst other false and at times outlandish claims throughout the campaign.
“Franklin has never been more united after this election. Over 80% of the voters have spoken and said this is our Franklin,” Moore said during his comments to a packed ballroom of supporters at the Harpeth Hotel. “Franklin has rejected the people who would abandon the work of so many leaders over the last 40 years. Franklin has rejected the untruths spoken about me and my supporters. Franklin has rejected politics of divisiveness and destruction. I’m glad to say that I’m excited to have Alderman Blanton, Alderman Barnhill, Alderman Petersen, and newly elected Greg Caesar.”
“This campaign has gotten the attention of people in Hawaii, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, California, Florida, even Alabama, that have supported my campaign financially,” Moore continued. “The challenges of this election have made our community stronger. We should continue to pray for healing of our city as we move forward.
“We all know we live in a great community, and we must keep it great. We are a beacon for so many other cities … and we will continue to make sure it’s a special place for people to live, a special place for people to work, a special place to raise a family and a special place where everyone has a place in our community.”
Moore’s supporters felt a sense of relief as well.
“These candidates that come in from out of town, out of state and run campaigns on hate and fear, received a message tonight,” said Franklin resident Steve Bacon. “It was a great night for Franklin.”
Incumbent aldermen also received the same support with dominating victories Tuesday. Blanton defeated Moore, who ran on a platform against the Pride Festival.
“I have never seen a divide like this in our community,” Blanton said. “But we also showed that it was not a clear divide, [that] the drama and actions of others are not who we are as a community. The campaign was sad and frustrating at times but to see our community rally around this beautiful town we call home was amazing.”
Blanton also touted her team who worked tirelessly throughout the campaign. “I had an amazing team, supporters who worked hard, this is a win for them as well.”
Petersen received the most votes amongst her peers with 10,961 votes cast and stayed away from the negative campaign fodder throughout her campaign.
“I think ideally people need to understand all the good things going on in Franklin,” Petersen said. “I think, based on the results, the voters have seen what good things are going on. I wanted to focus my campaign on this, not the negative.”
Petersen defeated challenger Feldman, a recent newcomer to Franklin who ran on the Williamson Families ticket. Feldman’s resume came under question during the campaign, even drawing an exclusive interview with Channel 5’s Phil Williams where he struggled to answer questions about his past employment.
Caesar won the open alderman-at-large seat which was vacated by Hanson’s run for mayor. Caesar was supported by the Coalition for Common Sense PAC along with the incumbents.
“I got into this election because I care about Franklin,” Caesar said. “I saw a divided community where national politics tried to show up and take control of our town. This is not how we perform, not how we represent. The citizens of Franklin spoke really loud today, and I am happy that the true Franklin showed up.”
Caesar defeated challenger George, who was endorsed by Williamson Families, and local businessman Muvvala.
Alderman Barnhill was the only candidate who ran unopposed, and the only incumbent endorsed by Williamson Families. Barnhill, who has been in office for the past 31 years, said this is the strangest election he has seen.
“It’s the most unusual election I have seen since I have been running,” Barnhill said. “It’s great to see the results tonight and it demonstrates a great deal of what Franklin is all about.”
Barnhill said he will be ready to get back to the business of the city with a new City Hall as the biggest item on the city’s upcoming agenda.
Local PAC Williamson Families used negative propaganda and votes for the Pride Festival as their primary basis for supporting the challengers, which they labeled as the “True Conservatives.” The Williamson County Republican party also supported this slate of candidates by not denouncing Hanson’s actions. Their forum, which was also sponsored by Williamson Families and Moms for Liberty, was set up for their slate of candidates with questions more focused on national politics rather than local issues. Moderator Kathy Danner even referred to Hanson as “Gabby” during the forum. Mayor Moore and Blanton did not participate.
A local PAC called the Coalition for Common Sense was formed to unite the community, and it supported Mayor Moore, the incumbents and Caesar. One of the founders of the coalition is Franklin resident Bob Ravener.
“Common sense prevailed in our fight for the city as record voter turnout demonstrated,” Ravener said. “We have awakened the good people of our city to the importance of being informed and the need to exercise their Constitutional right o cast the votes for the future of Franklin.
Hanson did not respond to a request for comment. She advertised an election event with Feldman and Gary Moore at the Cool Springs Hilton that featured music by Mark Anthony Ensemble and a yo-yo artist. Tickets were listed for $500 with strict ID policy for entrance.
“We are a community that works together,” Ken Moore said. “We had great support, and we made a statement tonight about the work we have been doing.”
Franklin voting tallied 16,339 ballots cast which is 26.77% of registered voters.