NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Megan Barry’s election as Nashville’s first female mayor dashed Republican hopes of making inroads in one of the few remaining Democratic strongholds in Tennessee.
Barry, a metro councilwoman, ended up cruising to a 10-percentage point victory Thursday over hedge fund manager David Fox, who had had embraced conservative voters while trying to paint his opponent as too focused on social issues. Fox also ran radio ads labeling Barry and husband, Bruce, as anti-Christian, and sought to blame her for past property tax increases and the city’s worsening traffic.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Fox said in his concession speech. “We left it all on the field and ran a very aggressive campaign.”
Barry, who officiated the city’s first gay marriage following the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Tennessee’s ban, never shied from her “strong progressive” positions in a city that last year voted 2-to-1 against giving state lawmakers more power to regulate abortion, twice overwhelmingly voted for President Barack Obama and in 2009 soundly rejected requiring all government business be done in English.
In the closing days of the race, Barry heavily courted African-American voters to help seal her victory.
In her victory speech, Barry praised her husband and supporters for staying “above the fray.” She said her goals as mayor will be improve transit, public education and affordable housing.
“Our working families need a mayor who is going to create prosperity for everyone,” she said.
Barry succeeds term-limited Mayor Karl Dean on Sept. 25. She will become the seventh mayor since the city of Nashville merged with Davidson County in 1963.
Fox said he would work to reconcile with Barry after an increasingly acrimonious campaign. Fox had raised eyebrows in Nashville for touting the endorsements of Republicans like state Sen. Jack Johnson and former NASCAR great Darrel Waltrip, both of whom are from neighboring Williamson County.
He also called it a personal attack when Barry criticized his brother, George, for giving $1 million to a super PAC running TV ads in the race.
The state Democratic Party also took the unusual step of getting involved in what is ostensibly a nonpartisan race with radio ads and targeted mailers decrying Fox as a “tea party extremist” and criticizing him as a hedge fund manager who opposes raising the minimum wage.