Nashville Mayor John Cooper unexpectedly announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election this summer, a proclamation that comes a month after his brother and fellow Tennessee Democrat, longtime Rep. Jim Cooper, left the House.
However, while Jim Cooper retired after the GOP legislature gerrymandered his seat, the mayor insisted he was calling it a career because he’d accomplished the goals he’d run on in 2019. Cooper also acknowledged, though, how difficult his tenure had been, saying, “In many respects, 2020 was itself a full term in office.” Cooper’s decision could set off a crowded August nonpartisan primary to lead Nashville, which has been consolidated with the rest of Davidson County since 1962, though three candidates already said last year they were running no matter what the incumbent did.
The field already includes former economic development chief Matt Wiltshire as well as two members of the Metro Council, which is the 40-person local legislative body: Sharon Hurt, an at-large member who would be Nashville’s first Black mayor, and Freddie O'Connell, who represents downtown. The filing deadline is in May, and a September runoff would take place if no one earned a majority of the vote in the first round.
Whoever wins the top job in this blue city will be taking over a time when Tennessee Republicans are looking to punish Nashville the year after the Metro Council effectively killed the legislature’s plan to land the 2024 Republican National Convention. (The event was later awarded to Milwaukee.) State House Majority Leader William Lamberth responded to that rejection by tweeting, “The people of TN will remember this vote for a long time and so will I,” and he recently introduced a bill to cut the Metro Council in half. Lamberth denied his plan was about the RNC, though local voters decisively voted down a 2015 referendum that would have shrunk the body.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who leads the state Senate, also is spearheading a bill that would dramatically deprive the city’s convention center of funding. “Over the last year, Metro has made it clear they are no longer interested in aggressively recruiting top-tier conventions to Nashville,” McNally said, ominously adding, “That message has been received loud and clear by the General Assembly.”