The scandal that has enveloped Nashville Mayor Megan Barry in the wake of her admission that she had a two year affair with the head of her security detail has many wondering how she can weather the storm. As more details emerge regarding the use of taxpayer funds for her travels with Sgt. Rob Forrest, including 9 trips where the two of them traveled alone, speculation increases that she may ultimately be forced to resign. If that happens, what happens next?
A Barry resignation during the next six months would immediately elevate the current Vice Mayor to serving as acting Mayor pending a special election to fill the vacancy in the Mayor’s office. (If Mayor Barry doesn’t resign until a date within 12 months of the next election for Mayor, then there would NOT be a special election and the Vice Mayor would simply fill the role until the scheduled election occurs.)
The Nashville Metro Charter specifics in Section 15.03 that:
“There shall be held a special metropolitan election to fill a vacancy for the unexpired term in the office of mayor and in the office of district council member whenever such vacancy shall exist more than twelve (12) months prior to the date of the next general metropolitan election. The special election shall be ordered by the county commissioners of elections and they shall give notice thereof as provided by Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-14-105. When a vacancy exists in the office of vice mayor or in the office of council member-at-large, said office shall remain vacant until the next general election at which time such vacancy shall be filled; however, in no event shall a special election be held to fill such vacancy.”
If Barry resigns within the next few weeks, than the Tennessee Code would require the Davidson County Election Commission to order a special election. TCA 2-14-103. That special election would have to be scheduled within 75-80 days after the notice of need for election is received, although if there is a regular election of primary election schedule within 30 days of time required for a special election then the special election can be scheduled for that date. TCA 2-14-102.
Depending on the timing of a Barry resignation, if it occurs, then a special election to fill that vacancy could occur sometime in early April. Because that would fall within the 30 day time period for the May 1 county primary elections the special election would almost certainly be slated for that same May 1 date.
A special election on May 1 would be a “quick sprint” for any candidates interested in running. Those most likely to seize the opportunity would include Bill Freeman and David Fox, both of whom sought the Mayor’s office in the last election — with Freeman narrowly being edged out from the runoff by Fox. Freeman and Fox both have independent resources that would give them a huge advantage over other potential candidates who would have to depend on campaign donations in order to fund their campaigns. With only a 90 day window, raising money at the same time you have to spend it is an extremely difficult task as funds may be needed go out more quickly than they can come in. Councilman Bob Mendes has already been mentioned by some as a potential candidate if in fact Megan Barry resigns.