Franklin, Tennessee, a Nashville suburb, finds itself at the center of a contentious mayoral race that now involves Nazis supporting a mayoral candidate.
Exclusive reporting from News Channel 5 in Nashville exposed connections between candidate Gabrielle Hanson and a White supremacist group. During a mayoral forum on October 2nd, members of the group Tennessee Active Club escorted Hanson into the event.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labels Tennessee Active Club as a ‘Hitler worshiping’ hate group. Reporting by News Channel 5 shows that several of its members openly describe themselves as Nazis on social media.
Reporter Phil Williams spoke to several of the men at the Franklin forum, asking them why they were attending the event.
“We’re here for Gabrielle Hanson,” one said.
“We’re just here to show her some support,” another responded.
Hanson, who currently serves as the Franklin’s at-large alderman, is hoping to oust the current mayor in the October 24th election.
Gabrielle Hanson: history of controversy as Franklin alderman
The alderman and Franklin mayoral candidate has focused much of her energy during her time in office on anti-LGBTQ actions and rhetoric. She has been a strong opponent of pride events in the city, unsuccessfully fighting to block Franklin’s pride parade.
While Hanson’s opposition to the LGBTQ+ community drew wide condemnation, it also elicited support from local White supremacists.
One supporter in particular has a reputation for his racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
Sean Kauffmann, who accompanied Hanson to and from the event, is described as a “disturbed neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier.”
Over the summer, Hanson faced complaints of ethics violations when she threatened local Airport Authority Board members over their plans to support a local Black-lead organization for Juneteenth. The city’s ethics commission recommended the board of aldermen censure Hanson for her actions.
The same report from News Channel 5 found that Hanson had clear business ties with the White supremacist group that attended the candidate forum.
According to the report, Gabrielle Hanson was the listing agent for a small Franklin business called Lewis General Store.
That store is owned by Brad Lewis. Lewis describes himself as “an actual literal Nazi”, and the second floor of his building serves as a meeting place for the Tennessee Active Club.
It’s on that second floor that the club hosts events to “train White men” for an upcoming race war.
News Channel 5 attempted to ask Hanson about the Nazi groups that showed up in support of her candidacy. Hanson turned away from the camera while her entourage stood in front of the reporter, blocking her from view.
City officials condemn White supremacists at mayoral forum
The Franklin Board of Aldermen took swift action following the forum. It condemned the presence of neo-Nazis and White supremacists at the event.
“We, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, are deeply concerned and disturbed by the events that unfolded at Monday night’s candidate forum for the upcoming city election,” the statement reads.
“[Franklin] has always prided itself on fostering a welcoming environment for all residents… We will not tolerate any form of hatred, intimidation, or violence directed at our residents, media representatives, or anyone else attending or participating in the democratic process.”
The resolution condemning the White supremacists passed with 7 of the 8 aldermen voting in favor of it.
Gabrielle Hanson was the only alderman not to support the resolution.