A new Tennessee Star Poll first reported by host Brian Wilson on 99.7 FM WTN’s Nashville’s Morning News on Monday morning shows that Acting Mayor David Briley has a large lead over former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain, who is currently a distant second, but that he is substantially below the 50 percent mark he needs to reach in the May 24 election to avoid a runoff election.
When asked “If the election was held today, who would be your choice for Mayor of Nashville?” poll respondents answered as follows:
43 percent said Acting Mayor David Briley
9 percent said former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain
7 percent said former radio talk show host Ralph Bristol
5 percent said Metro Council Member At-Large Erica Gilmore
3 percent said State Rep. Harold Love
1 percent said Jeff Obafemi Carr
32 percent said they were undecided
The Tennessee Star Poll of 607 likely voters in Nashville/Davidson County was conducted by Triton Research over a two day period between Thursday, April 12 and Friday, April 13 in an automated telephone (IVR) survey and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
If no candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote on May 24, a runoff election between the first place finisher and second place finisher will be held on June 28.
Though Briley has a substantial 34 point lead over his nearest rival, Carol Swain, the poll also contains serious warning signs for the acting mayor who took over the reins of Metro Nashville Davidson County Government when former Mayor Megan Barry resigned in disgrace on March 6.
Briley is the only major candidate for Mayor of Nashville who supports the controversial $9 billion Nashville Transit Plan, which voters in Nashville/Davidson County oppose by more than a 2-to-1 margin in the same poll.
Briley and members of the Nashville business community who support the transit plan had hoped he would have no serious opposition in the special mayoral election. In fact, the Nashville Business Coalition asked all other serious candidates to stay out of the race when they endorsed Briley on March 8.
Briley and his supporters had also hoped that his significant financial war chest would scare off serious opposition to his candidacy. Last week, the Briley campaign announced that it had raised $400,000 in its first three weeks.
While several potential candidates with sufficient financial resources to challenge Briley chose not to run in the special election–real estate magnate Bill Freeman and businessman David Fox among them–at least one of his current rivals–former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain–appears to be assembling sufficient funding to mount a serious challenge to him.
Sources tell The Tennessee Star that Swain’s fundraising has gone well since it was first reported two weeks ago that she had filed the necessary papers to run for mayor.
Among the other candidates, only Erica Gilmore has previously raised money for a political campaign.
None of the remaining candidates have yet reported on their fundraising results.
Briley has a significant advantage in name recognition, benefiting from positive news coverage by most local media since becoming Mayor of Nashville last month and the long history of the Briley family’s participation in Nashville politics.
Seventy-two percent of poll respondents have heard of him, while only 28 percent said they “don’t know” him.
Fifty-nine percent of poll respondents “don’t know” Erica Gilmore, 65 percent “don’t know” State Rep. Harold Love, 66 percent “don’t know” Carol Swain, and 75 percent “don’t know” Jeff Obafemi Carr.
“Briley is still in the ‘honeymoon’ phase of his time as Mayor, has received a lot of very positive media over the last thirty days as he stepped in for the scandal-ridden former Mayor Barry, and enjoys high name recognition against a field of essentially unknown candidates,” conservative political strategist Steve Gill pointed out.
“He is definitely highly favored to make it into a runoff, but in a low turnout sprint to May 24 where HE is the main issue, and if his Barry/Briley Transit tax plan is defeated May 1, he will almost certainly see his margin narrow,” he added.
“Carol Swain has a small lead among the challengers, and if she can raise funds quickly and elevate her profile and name identification above the other candidates then she will be positioned to force a Briley-Swain runoff,” Gill noted.
With a margin of error of 4 percent, the poll results suggest that Swain, Bristol, and Gilmore are in the first tier of challengers to Briley, while Carr and Love are in the second tier.
You can read the top line summary of the poll results here:180414 Triton - Davidson County, TN Survey - Topline Results