Nashville, Tennesee, may be considered part of the South, but that is not stopping Music City from pushing to the forefront in LGBTQ politic representation. This week, seven openly queer candidates are fighting it out for spots on the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County, the local governing body.
While two of the openly queer candidates are running for re-election, five new out candidates have joined the fray. The number of LGBTQ candidates marks a turning point in politics where we are seeing more openly queer candidates than ever.
Advocates say the election is a historic moment that could change the tide of representation across the South. “Only five openly LGBTQ elected officials are serving in all of Tennessee, so these seven Nashville candidates could be transformative both for the city and the state,” Elliot Imse, senior director of communications for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, told The Advocate. “It is in deep red states like Tennessee that LGBTQ candidates can make the greatest difference — humanizing LGBTQ lives for their constituents and pushing their colleagues for inclusive laws and policies. Council members Nancy VanReece and Brett Withers have been the leading voices for equality on the council and have had a tremendous impact — but they need backup.”
VanReece and Withers are the two incumbents running to keep their seats this election, and they are joined by new candidates Emily Benedict, Russ Bradford, Charles Flowers, David McMurry, and Zach Young. At least one opposition candidate is openly homophobic. Dan Meredith, who is running against Bradford, has posted homophobic and racist rants on social media, including saying that “[t]he homosexual lobby is out to destroy everything we stand for.”
This hasn’t stopped the candidates from enjoying the historic campaign, however, and reminding voters that this isn’t just about diversity, it is about improving life in Nashville. “We’re here. We have a voice. We can represent everybody,” Candidate Benedict told The Advocate.