Connor Moss had big plans for Rutherford County. After he won a seat on the Rutherford City Council, he was going to contribute a fresh insight into proposed infrastructure projects for the next four years. His 6 percent of the votes from the election in 2010—his first run for a seat on the council—was just the beginning. As the new city council member, he could make a salary while continuing to work at Oakland’s Historic Museum, help uplift the county and tend to his garden at the corner of Highland and Lytle Street.
“I’ll be able to give more people a voice,” said Connor. “I’ll finally be able to make it so good for new residents and people that have been here all their lives.”
Connor is very much in love with the city of Murfreesboro, so when the second-time council candidate put his name in the running and saluted the 400 voters that had checked his name in the previous election, Alexander Ford, the campaign manager representing an underdog candidate, was giddy with excitement and pride. He was nervous. And he was not afraid. He met Connor two years ago when he was attending a government class at Middle Tennessee State University. Connor announced he was going to run for election to the class. After offering his support but receiving little feedback, Ford moved on to support other candidates in the election. Since their initial meeting, Ford never once believed Connor would give up. Many on the Square thought highly of the candidate, and finding someone who did not recognize the six foot red head’s frame and long stride was a challenge.
Ford stood by Connor’s side this election, after and before debates, giving him advice and encouragement. A boyish, pragmatic man with short blonde hair, 20-year-old Ford clutched his notes with confidence in a folder that had belonged to him while working on campaigns since 2004. He looked at home at the side of Moss but slightly uneasy with how he saw the election forming. This would be a non-partisan race yet Ford knew voters were eager to place bets and choose sides. Ford was on the front line of making friends and offending no one. Ford will remember the campaign as the toughest challenge in his life. As he had suspected, the incumbents used campaign funds to buy billboards and ad space the young campaign could not afford. Incumbent Toby Gilley’s silent face could be seen on billboards across the city while he made remarks of Moss’s past.
“Gilley called me a socialist in the paper for taking part in a protest against banks being bailed out. If he is supporting the bailout, he needs to look in the mirror when using such remarks,” Moss responded.
The incumbents used their political reach well. Members of the new Small Business Alliance of Rutherford County had formed an alliance between three candidates, and voters chose one, Eddie Smotherman, as a new member on the council.
Knowing in 2010 the election included the mayoral ballot, voter turn out in 2012 was expected to be roughly 4,000, down from 6,000 two years earlier. This year, of the registered voters in Rutherford County, under seven percent placed a vote. Perhaps Ford knew somewhere in the middle that the race was not theirs to win. Overcoming issues with age and time spent in Rutherford County was a factor voters who had not met the candidate raised on a constant basis.
“It is as if residents are giving up on their town,” says one young voter who came to cast a ballot for Moss.
Moss places a relieved smile on his face when asked about his political future. “I’d like to run again,” Moss says as he begins to get ready for his shift at Maple Street Grill on the Square. For now the chair on the council will wait for him and Moss will continue to be seen in conversation on his porch, in the garden, at two jobs and around town. For Ford, he is gearing up for August and November elections and preparing to get married, planning ways to flip seats in Rutherford County and maintaining a positive outlook on his future political and marital tug-o’-war.