NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — John Cooper, former At-large councilman, won the mayoral runoff election. Fifteen minutes after polls closed, incumbent David Briley conceded to Cooper as early voting numbers showed Cooper with a 20,000 vote lead.
Cooper made his victory speech with his family and a crowd of supporters behind him.
"As Mayor, I will work every day to continue to listen and learn. To put neighborhoods first and make sure that this Administration reflects the values of our city and her people in all of our actions. To restore trust that our people and their needs come first," he said.
Cooper has served as a Budget and Finance Committee member, Parks, Library and Recreation Committee member and a Public Works Committee member and served on the Blue Ribbon Commission. His message to voters was that Nashville is headed in the wrong direction and the great downtown economic boom is leaving other neighborhoods behind.
And he touched on those topics in his victory speech, stressing the importance of fiscal responsibility.
"I’ve been told that I care too much about the numbers. But if we don’t get the money right, we can’t get anything else right. Because in government, to care about finances is to care about people. That is how you make their dreams real."
It was a quick concession after a historic landslide for the mayor. NewsChannel 5 political analyst Pat Nolan says it was unprecedented: "Metro government is now over 56 years old. In all that time there's never been an incumbent beaten like this."
Veteran political observer Larry Woods agreed, saying "In a contested election, it's one of the most lopsided results I've seen in my lifetime."
Nolan says that Briley had his work cut out for him after a surprise out-and-out win in a crowded field during last year's special election. "He sort of lurched from one issue to another. He was left holding the bag on the transit referendum and was there when we all found out the that this city's budget was in way worse shape than anyone thought."
Nolan went on to say that Cooper had his work cut out for him. "That's now two mayors who have failed. Now it's up to John Cooper to avoid being the third."
Governor Bill Lee congratulated Cooper in a tweet, saying "I look forward to working with you to keep Nashville’s momentum going."
Cooper has faced some criticism for largely self-funding his campaign. In the first election, he reported spending about $1.4 million of his own money before the General Election.
In recent weeks before the runoff, Cooper put another $350,000 into his own campaign, bringing that total to $1.8 million. Cooper has also received the backing of many of the unions in town, donating money to his campaign. Overall, Cooper has brought in well more than double the amount of money Mayor Briley has over the last several weeks.
Briley became mayor after a scandal brought down former Mayor Megan Barry.
In recent months, Briley was called out for what many called last-ditch efforts to boost his platform and campaign. He tried to eradicate scooters from downtown Nashville, but failed, with council voting to keep a current restriction in place.