A new Tennessee Star/Triton poll of 550 likely voters in Davidson County indicates that he will face some stiff headwinds in his bid for reelection in August. His first challenge will be addressing a favorability/unfavorability deficit of 35.5 favorable, 44.6 unfavorable and 20.1 undecided.
More specifically, if the August Mayoral race was held today, Briley would lead the way into a runoff with less than a third of the vote, 30.6%, followed by conservative former Vanderbilt Professor Carol Swain at 21.1%, Metro Councilman John Cooper at 11% and State Representative John Ray Clemmons with 10.5%. 26.9% of those surveyed were undecided at this point.
Briley won the last Mayoral race a year ago without a runoff when he carried 54.4% of the votes. Swain finished a distant second with 22.9%, slightly more than she recorded in the new Tennessee Star/Triton poll. Four other candidates in that race received about 5% of the vote each.
The most recent fundraising reports from the candidates last month showed Briley with a huge 4-1 advantage over both Swain and Clemmons. Cooper had initially passed on a race for Mayor and only announced his plans after the last fundraising reporting deadline. However, he can essentially “self-fund” his way into immediate parity with Briley and make the biggest move in gaining support over the next several months.
Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill says that a runoff is almost certain in this year’s Mayoral race and the biggest question is who emerges in that runoff against Briley. “Cooper has opposed Briley on a couple of critical issues, like the Briley/Megan Barry transit plan that voters soundly rejected, which puts him in a solid position as an alternative to Briley from an issues standpoint,” Gill said. “However, he needs to quickly brand himself as an acceptable alternative to Briley — who can win — in order to pull in the business community that supported David Fox in the last major mayor’s race along with all of the other interest and demographic groups that Briley has alienated. It can happen, and the high disapproval numbers for Briley should give Cooper optimism, but he needs to kick off his media push sooner rather than later.”
Another reason Cooper should launch some media soon is the financial advantage he has over Swain and Clemmons, Gill adds. “Once he starts, they have to respond or risk falling behind in visibility and support. He can bleed off their money early and put them in a difficult position of spending it now and then being unable to accumulate more for the final push in July.”
The Tennessee Star/Triton poll was conducted April 29 -May 1, 2019 and surveyed the opinions of 550 likely voters in Davidson County with a margin of error of 4.2%. The full topline of the poll can be viewed Tuesday morning in The Tennessee Star.