NASHVILLE, Tennessee–Acting Mayor David Briley won the Nashville/Davidson County special mayoral election on Thursday, winning 55 percent of the vote in a field of 13 candidates, easily clearing the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff election.
Former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain finished in second place with 23 percent of the vote.
At-Large Metro Council Member Erica Gilmore finished in third place with 5.6 percent, State Rep. Harold Love (D-Nashville) finished in fourth place with 5.4 percent, former talk radio host Ralph Bristol finished in fifth place with 5.2 percent, and jeff obafemi carr finished in sixth place with 4.7 percent.
The other seven candidates on the ballot received 2 percent of all votes cast.
The final election turnout of slightly more than 80,000 was higher than had been expected, a sign perhaps that the uptick in the last three days of early voting continued into election day. Much of that uptick appears to have been driven by get-out-the-vote activities of the Briley campaign.
Though Briley’s support of the $9 billion transit plan, which voters rejected overwhelmingly on May 1 by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin, among other political issues, left him vulnerable to potential rivals, his huge fundraising advantage–he raised $720,000 compared to nearest rival Swain, who raised $115,000–combined with a sophisticated political operation put him over the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright and avoid a runoff.
The Briley campaign reportedly hired canvassers who knocked on more than 25,000 doors, and robo-called an additional 20,000 households.
This get-out-the-vote push appeared to kick in during the last three days of early voting, where turnout jumped up to more than 19,000–a dramatic increase from the 15,000 who turned out during the first 11 days of early voting.
That same get-out-the-vote push by the Briley campaign apparently continued on election day, when more than 45,000 residents of Nashville/Davidson County voted, a higher than usual election day increase over the slightly more than 34,500 that turned out in early voting.
Turnout was still less than the 123,000 that turned out for the May 1 transit plan election referendum, but 80,000 plus was significantly greater than the much lower total turnout expected after the first 11 days of anemic early voting.
Second place finisher Swain conceded and congratulated Briley on his victory shortly after 9 p.m. at her campaign’s election watch event held at the University Club of Nashville. The former Vanderbilt professor left open the possibility that she might run for mayor again in the August 2019 election, in the election for a full four year term.
Little changed between the final outcome Thursday when compared to the results of The Tennessee Star Poll on the mayoral race published on April 16, with the exception that Briley and Swain each improved their position by between 12 and 14 points.
For Briley, that 12 point improvement put him over the 50 percent threshold he needed to reach to avoid a runoff.
In that Tennessee Star Poll, conducted of likely registered voters in Davidson County over the two day period April 12 to April 13, Briley was in first place with 43 percent of the vote, Swain was in second with 9 percent, Bristol was in third with 7 percent, and Gilmore was at 5 percent.
Briley’s $720,000 helped improve his support by 12 points, from 43 percent in the April Tennessee Star Poll to 55 percent on election day.
Swain’s $115,000 helped improve her support by 14 points, from 9 percent in the April Tennessee Star Poll to 23 percent on election day.
Bristol’s $12,000, combined with a poor performance at one of the mayoral forums, lowered his support from 7 percent in the April Tennessee Star Poll to 5 percent on election day.
The other candidates’ support remained relatively unchanged from The Tennessee Star Poll in April to election day.
Briley’s 32 point margin over second place finisher Swain on election day was virtually the same as his 34 point margin over Swain in the April Tennessee Star Poll.
With 95 percent of all precincts reporting, the total votes received by candidate, according to News Channel5, were: