Tennessee political candidate responds to homophobic smear campaign

Eric Patton, Tennessee District 11 candidate.

A Tennessee politician running for local election has hit back at a homophobic smear campaign made against him after a hateful mailer appeared in mailboxes across his district.

Eric Patton is running for Metro Council in Tennessee’s District 11, focusing his campaign on improving his community’s schools, services, and small businesses.

Patton, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, is running against conservative candidate Jeff Eslick on 14 September. But a recent smear campaign against Patton threatened to throw a spanner in the works.

The mailer, obtained by local media outlet The Tennessee Holler, unfairly pitted candidates Patton and Eslick against each other, telling voters that “the choice is clear.”

While Eslick, pictured in front of the American flag, wearing a clean-cut suit, is said to represent “traditional community values”, Patton, who is pictured standing in front of the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag and wearing a vest that reads “Gay and Tired” is said to represent “a progressive liberal LGBTQ+ driven agenda.”

Eric Patton.
Tennessee political candidate Eric Patton has responded to the ‘anti-gay’ smear campaign made against him. (Twitter/Eric Patton)

The mailer goes on to allege that Eslick has a better understanding of “community values” as he has lived in District 11 for 23 years, compared to Patton’s two years.

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It then claims that Eslick “strongly opposes taxpayers paying for transgender surgery for Metropolitan Nashville Government employees as a benefit”, while Patton “supports” this motion. Additionally, it suggests that, while Patton “supports men identifying as women playing sports against women,” Eslick “supports local Old Hickory native Riley Gaines and her efforts to get men out of competing against women.”

Once he became aware of its distribution, Patton issued a statement against the “anti-gay hate mailer distributed by a dark money PAC supporting his opponent.”

The statement read: “As someone of an LGBTQ+ experience born and raised in Tennessee, it’s safe to say I am gay and tired, just as the t-shirt says. I’m sick and tired of this hatred attacking me and the folks in the LGBTQ+ community.”

Patton then called on his competitor Jeff Eslick, as well as the Nashville Fire Fighters Association and National Fraternal Order of Police, whose logos were featured on the mailer, to publicly denounce the mailer.

“Now, more than ever, we need leaders who are willing to work together to find solutions, rather than trying to find culture wars at every turn,” he concluded.

“I’m running for Metro Council to make sure Old Hickory and Hermitage is an amazing place to grow up, work, and retire – no matter who you are.”

Shortly after Patton issued the statement, Eslick commented on the smear campaign made against his opponent. While he insisted he had no involvement, Eslick didn’t directly denounce the claims that were made in the mailer.

“I have been made aware of a political mail piece that is being delivered today,” he wrote in a post to X (formerly Twitter).

“It is not from my campaign, nor was it approved by me. I have been running a clean campaign and have not resorted to negative advertising. It is unfortunate that others haven’t done the same.”

Meanwhile, Patton responded to the hate by doubling down on his campaign.

An update to his candidate site reads: “Love always wins. Light always drives out darkness. And I encourage everyone to keep this a campaign about issues. Now more than ever, I need you to stand with me.”

Eric Patton and Jeff Eslick will go head-to-head on 14 September for District 11 Metro Council.