Vanderbilt students help blaze campaign trails for 2019 Nashville mayoral election

The Hustler talks to students taking charge in a potentially historic mayoral race


Emily Gonçalves

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Jessica M. Barker, Deputy News Editor

While some students spent their summers completing internships or working on research to further their academic careers, several Vanderbilt students signed on to work the campaign trails for Incumbent Mayor David Briley and At-Large Councilmember John Cooper’s mayoral campaigns.

The run-off election Sept. 12 between the two candidates follows the initial election in Aug. when Cooper took the lead over Briley. If Briley loses this election, this would be the first incumbency loss for mayor in Nashville’s history.

Briley, who was formerly the Vice Mayor, took office in March of 2018 after the resignation of former Mayor Megan Barry following a scandal wherein both she and her former head of security committed felony theft while in office. Briley later won a special election that allowed him to serve as Nashville’s mayor for fifteen months until the city’s next typical mayoral election cycle.

At-Large Councilmember John Cooper joined the race April 16 of this year, joining a field that grew to ten candidates before the first round of elections. Cooper caught many by surprise, taking a lead over Briley for the Aug. 1 election.

Senior Davison Thompson, who worked for the campaign, recalled the campaign watch party on election night.

“The general election was kind of a shock to us,” Thompson said. “Briley’s just so passionate about the city of Nashville.” 

When asked about what he believes in about Briley’s platform, Thompson emphasized his commitment to affordable housing in Nashville along with his comprehensive plans to address other areas, such as education. Thompson plans to continue his canvassing work throughout this final week of campaigning.

Sophomore Anil Chakka, a Cooper campaign volunteer, predicted Cooper’s lead in the general election based off of what he saw canvassing. Chakka said that at almost every door that he knocked, constituents said that they planned on voting for Cooper before he even started talking. Though Chakka expressed some regret about joining the Cooper campaign due to the actual task of canvassing, he still stands behind his candidate’s message of putting Nashvillians first without sacrificing the benefits that come with tourism.

Chakka spoke of Cooper’s plans to invest in the city’s infrastructure and raise teacher pay. According to Chakka, Cooper wants Nashvillians to be proud and see that Nashville is both growing and improving. 

Vanderbilt students registered to vote in Nashville can type in their address here to find the appropriate polling location so they can vote in this runoff election Sept. 12.