Aug 3, 2023 - Election

Top Election Day storylines in Nashville: Mayor, council races on the ballot

Illustration of a row of voting booths casting long shadows, the side of the booth reads "VOTE" with a checkmark as the V.

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

After months of anticipation and speculation, Nashville is going to the polls Thursday to select a new crop of local leaders from more than 100 candidates.

Why it matters: Ballots in these races will help determine the city's approach to its biggest challenges for the next four years.

Driving the news: Races on the ballot include mayor, vice mayor and all 40 Metro Council seats.

  • A Sept. 14 runoff is expected for mayor and at-large council seats.

State of play: The limited polling available suggests a tight race to determine the top two mayoral candidates heading to the runoff.

❗ What to know: More than 57,000 people voted early, but you still have 12 hours to make your voice heard.

For later: Results will be posted online after the polls close.

What we're watching

Recent polls and feedback from the top mayoral campaigns indicate that many Nashville voters — as many as 20% as of last week — hadn't settled on a candidate.

With so many late-breaking voters, there could be a sizable gap between the early-vote results and Election Day results.

  • Be prepared to stay up later for results. There could also be thin margins separating the top candidates.
  • The last time Nashville had a competitive open election for mayor, in 2015, just 2,000 votes separated first place and third place. Only the top two candidates advance to the mayoral runoff.

The intrigue: Republican candidates got about 22% of the total vote in recent Metro mayoral elections. With that in mind, keep an eye on Alice Rolli's performance.

  • If she hits that mark this year, it may be enough to qualify for the runoff in a crowded field with several left-leaning candidates.

The big picture: In the Metro Council races, there's a battle between the candidates backed by pro-business groups and those backed by progressive activist organizations.

By the numbers: The at-large race features 21 candidates vying for five spots representing the entire county (as opposed to 35 district council members representing smaller neighborhoods).

  • To win a seat outright, an at-large candidate must earn more than 10% of the total vote. The remaining seats will be decided in a runoff among the other top vote-getters.

Two incumbents, Councilmembers Burkley Allen and Zulfat Suara, have history on their side. Since at least 1999, no incumbent at-large member has lost a Metro re-election bid.

Meanwhile: Another at-large candidate worth watching is Olivia Hill, who's making a historic bid. At a time when debate over transgender rights has been at the forefront of Tennessee politics, Hill is the first trans woman in state history to be on the ballot.

Also: There is a primary to fill the late state Rep. Bill Beck's seat.

  • Interim state Rep. Anthony Davis, who the council appointed to temporarily replace Beck, faces activist Aftyn Behn in the Democratic primary.

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