On the March to Vote
Nashville for All of Us Special Election Campaign
For two years, a group in Nashville worked to make English the only permissible language for use by Metro government. Tapping into public anger over immigration issues, Metropolitan Nashville Council Member Eric Crafton was able to pass a Council resolution on the matter in 2006, only to have it vetoed by then-Mayor Bill Purcell. Undaunted, Crafton gathered enough signatures to have the matter placed on the ballot as an amendment to the city’s Charter. After the issue was blocked from the November 2008 ballot on a technicality, Crafton successfully petitioned for a special election in January 2009. A second proposed Charter amendment was added that would have made it easier to put subsequent charter changes on the ballot. Financing Crafton’s effort was a Virginia-based organization called Pro-English, led by Dr. John Tanton, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Many of Nashville’s business and community leaders had watched with growing alarm as Crafton got closer to his ballot goal. These leaders, in coordination with members of the religious community and of the music and tourism industries, began meeting to discuss how to end Crafton’s English Only bid once and for all.
In November 2008, these groups hired a campaign manager, and in December, reached out to McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations and MMA Creative to help coordinate the effort; provide a unified theme, messaging and media strategy; and provide discipline to the existing grassroots efforts under way.
The campaign was created, funded and successfully executed in 75 days. The goal, of course, was to win. A scientific survey showed victory was unlikely unless there was a huge turnout among demographics with traditionally low voter turnouts. If early estimates had held true, and 40,000 to 50,000 people had voted, the English Only supporters’ votes would have won the day. Our intensive and successful get-out-the-vote effort motivated an additional 20,000 voters to go to the polls. The end result was a stunning repudiation of English Only, and a sound defeat for Amendment Two. The campaign changed the outcome of the election and solidified Nashville’s reputation as a friendly and welcoming city through national and international media attention to the vote.