Incumbent David Briley faces nine challengers in the nonpartisan election for mayor of Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday. Nashville voters will also elect all 41 members of the metro council, including the vice-mayor. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in any race Thursday, a runoff election will be held September 12.
A mayor of Nashville’s Metro government (formed in 1963) has never lost a re-election bid. Briley succeeded former Mayor Megan Barry upon her resignation in March 2018. He won a special election in May 2018 to complete her term. Media outlets identified Briley’s top three challengers as state Rep. John Clemmons (D), At-Large City Councilmember John Cooper, and former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain. Policy debates in the race have largely centered on how the city raises and spends money.
Briley has campaigned on his record as mayor, saying his accomplishments include a $500 million public investment in affordable housing over the next decade and avoiding property tax increases. Clemmons was the only top candidate to support a recently rejected property tax increase, saying it was needed to fund teacher pay raises. Cooper highlights his background in real estate and finance and says the city has invested too much in developing downtown as opposed to neighborhoods. Swain describes herself as a conservative who would reduce budgetary waste in the city.
Briley’s endorsers include the Nashville Business Coalition, former Tennesse Governor and Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen (D), and the Nashville Tennessean editorial board. Clemmons has been backed by several unions and the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association’s PAC. Cooper was endorsed by the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police, the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund, and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D), his brother. Swain is backed by several radio show hosts.
Nashville was the 24th-largest U.S. city as of 2013, with a population of 634,000. The mayors of 62 of the country’s 100 largest cities are affiliated with the Democratic Party. There are 30 Republican, four independent, and four nonpartisan mayors among the largest cities. Briley is a Democrat, as is state Rep. Clemmons. Swain is a Republican, and Cooper’s affiliation is unknown.