Aug 5, 2022 - Politics

Democrats dominate Nashville school board races

Illustration of an apple with an I Voted sticker.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Democratic slate of candidates steamrolled to victory in the Nashville school board elections.

The intrigue: A sense of mystery hung over the four races because for the first time, they were partisan.

Details: Incumbent Rachael Anne Elrod won in District 4 over Republican challenger Todd Pembroke and independent Edward Arnold. The other three districts will have newcomers on the board.

  • Berthena Nabaa-McKinney defeated Republican Kelli Phillips.
  • Incumbent board member Fran Bush ran as an independent and was throttled by Democratic challenger and former school board chair Cheryl Mayes.
  • Erin O'Hara Block defeated independent Amy Pate in District 8. Pate rose to prominence in education politics because of her vocal criticism of the school district's response to the pandemic.

Why it matters: The Democrats' strong performances validates the decision by the county party to hold partisan elections.

  • The legislature passed a law last year allowing county political parties to hold partisan races. The Democratic Party in Nashville didn't want to do so, but decided it would if the county Republicans made the choice first.

What they're saying: Elrod tells Axios she still doesn't think partisan races are good for school board elections. She says candidates were forced to talk about education issues that were elevated at a national level such as critical race theory.

  • "In the case of critical race theory, they were creating a problem to be solved that didn't exist," Elrod says. "There are actual problems to solve, not make-believe ones."
  • She says her first priority is collaborating with the Metro Council on budget issues, and getting on the same page for how the city should respond to the state's new education funding formula and vouchers.
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