LGBT Nashville Election Guide

The race for vice mayor is far more uncomplicated as a straight-up, head-to-head matchup between former councilman David Briley and former councilman and state legislator Tim Garrett. Since the incumbent, Diane Neighbors, is term-limited, citizens will have to choose between these two experienced local politicians.

Twenty-six people, on the other hand, are seeking one of the five at-large council seats. These seats are chosen by countywide election, like mayor and vice mayor, and this field is heavily populated by both concerned citizens and term-limited district councilmembers. This is a race to watch, filled as it is with both friends and foes of LGBT rights.

Many of Nashville’s district races are also hotly contested. There are thirty-five districts represented on the Metro Council, and while nine of those races have uncontested, some have fields that ensure a runoff. District 1, for instance, has a field of eight candidates.

In order to help LGBT and allied citizens get a better feel for the race, O&AN sent questionnaires to every candidate for whom we could find a reliable contact. Having assembled those responses, our senior leadership compared them and considered the candidates’ public record on the issues, if there was any, and where possible we came to an agreement on our endorsements, which we present to you here.

In some cases there were many worthy candidates for our endorsement, and the decision was hard. We thank all the pro-LGBT candidates, even those we did not endorse, for your commitment to justice and equality, and we wish them the best of luck.


Vice Mayor

David Briley — however, both candidates have a history of outreach to, and have elicited strong support from, the LGBT community.



In this wide open field, there are more candidates in support of LGBT rights than there are seats, which makes this a difficult set of choices. In the end our board chose to endorse Erin Coleman, Jason Holleman, Lonnell Matthews, Erica Gillmore, and John Lasiter. Holleman, Matthews, and Gillmore are all solid allies with strong voices when it comes to LGBT issues.

Coleman impressed us with the frankness of her responses. “Frankly, by walking through the door,” Coleman wrote, “our elected officials should reach out to Just Us and other civic organizations, attend meetings, learn what they are about. I want to be a voice for all of Nashville.” And we believe she will.

John Lasiter is an out, gay man in Nashville, who is committed to working for the rights of other LGBT people and for the good of the greater Nashville community.

However, there are a number of candidates we must mention—they too would, we believe, be supportive of issues pertaining to LGBT rights: Phillip Hostettler, Bob Mendes, Buddy Baker (a Republican who sponsored the 2009 non-discrimination ordinance and voted ‘Yes’ on partner benefits), Adam Dread (a Republican who voted for and worked in behalf of non-discrimination around 2002-03), and Frank Harrison, Walter Hunt, and Sandra Moore, all of whom voted ‘Yes’ on partner benefits.

On the other hand, there are candidates who must be mentioned for the opposite reason, an anti-endorsement if you will. Robert Duvall was a staunch opponent of LGBT rights while on the Council, while Karen Bennett either abstained or absented herself from the vote.



City Council Districts

District 1: Jonathan Richardson has committed to working with the LGBT community on diversity training and inclusiveness in city government and services.








District 5: Incumbent Scott Davis was an important voice behind the push for domestic partner benefits last year, and thus has a proven record of standing up for the LGBT community, and thus receives O&AN’s endorsement. However candidate Sarah Martin would also be a strong ally.


District 6: This race pits openly gay candidate Brett Withers against Peter Westerholm, the driving force behind Metro’s domestic partner benefits ordinance. Ultimately, with both men strongly in the corner of LGBT rights, Brett Withers’ strengths in neighborhood planning and fighting for zoning issues earned him our endorsement


District 7: Anthony Davis has been a powerful voice in nondiscrimination and partner benefits debates, and he remains committed to “pushing the State of Tennessee to change and adapt to our times."


District 8: Nancy VanReece — as an out candidate with a well-known stance on issues of concern to the LGBT community, you can’t go wrong here.


District 9: NO ENDORSEMENT. While we lack enough information to know if his opponent is better on the issue, it is important to note that incumbent Bill Pridemore is opposed to LGBT well-being. He didn’t just vote no, he vigorously opposed domestic partner benefits, pleading in the final reading that offering equal coverage to hardworking LGBT Nashvillians somehow compromised his values and those of his constituents.


District 10 – NO ENDORSEMENT. While incumbent Doug Pardue is unopposed, his opposition to LGBT rights couldn’t have been made any clearer in his votes of partner benefits. Creative write-ins might send a message.


District 11 – Larry Hagar is unopposed but during an interview with O&AN related to a controversy around some of his comments overheard in a café, Hagar came across as supporting LGBT issues. Let’s see if he puts his money where his mouth is!


District 12 – NO ENDORSEMENT. Steve Glover is unopposed, but he too voted against partner benefits, so while you should go vote, you might want to think twice before adding to this guy’s yes column.


District 13 – Marilyn Robinson is former president of the local NAACP, and has worked well with LGBT advocacy groups in the past.


District 14 – Kevin Rhoten is unopposed but he’s committed to the fight against discrimination and homelessness.


District 15 – Jeff Syracuse presents a real opportunity. Incumbent Phil Claiborne, who is term-limited, was one of the driving force against LGBT interests on the last council. Syracuse is a game changer for this district: “I believe LGBT issues are Civil Rights issues and will vote in favor on issues helping to ensure all citizens are treated equally.”


District 16 – Mike Freeman is a clear choice here, challenging as he is one of the opponents of partner benefits. This former Scout and Marine pledges that he would never vote for legislation that did not treat “members of the LGBT community fairly.”


District 17 – This district race presents three candidates all of whom strongly support the LGBT community and all of whom bring passion to the job. We could be proud to support any of them, but Paula Foster is the candidate we endorse. As a lesbian and a mother, with a 19-year career working with HIV/AIDS patients, we feel she would bring much needed wisdom to the Council.


District 18 – The unopposed Burkley Allen proved has proved an unflappable ally!


District 19 – Freddie O’Connell doesn’t just support LGBT rights in theory, he’s pounding the pavement, attending Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition meetings and keeping abreast of the issues of concern to our community.


District 20 – NO ENDORSEMENT. In this district, all the candidates are very affirming, but it was impossible for our committee to highlight one over the others.




District 22 – NO ENDORSEMENT. The unopposed Sheri Weiner stayed home for both roll call votes on domestic partner benefits.


District 23 – Mina Johnson is committed to building on past victories for the LGBT community in Nashville.


District 24 –Kathleen Murphy has a solid record of support for the LGBT community and has O&AN’s endorsement.


District 25 – NO ENDORSEMENT.


District 26 – Jeremy Elrod is committed to helping advance TEP’s local government advocacy agenda, and has a solid knowledge of issues of concern to the LGBT community, even referencing PREP in his discussions of LGBT healthcare.


District 27 – NO ENDORSEMENT. Davette Blalock abstained on partner benefits but has seemed to reach out to LGBT voters since. Her opponent’s positions are unclear.


District 28 – Melissa Smithson is committed to an agenda favorable to the LGBT community.


District 29— Incumbent Karen Johnson was a supporter of domestic partner benefits and has a history of standing behind the LGBT community.


District 30 – Jason Potts, the unopposed incumbent, supported partner benefits.


District 31 – Fabian Bedne, the unopposed incumbent, supported partner benefits, and says he will make himself available to perform ALL weddings. He also sits on the board of Oasis Center, and has an active interest in the youth homelessness issue.


District 32 – NO ENDORSEMENT. Jacobia Dowell abstained twice on partner benefits, but with no response from her opponents, she MAY still be the best choice. She went on the record to say, “I will work to keep their rights just like any other member of the community. We should not discriminate.”


District 33 – Sam Coleman has a complicated record of LGBT support, given his involvement in 2009's non-discrimination ordinance (he initially supported a version that lacked gender identity, but stood by the bill when it was amended to include it), so he has O&AN’s endorsement. His opponent Jimmy Gafford, however, also pledges that he “would support all citizens to be treated fairly no matter of their sexual orientation.”


Distrct 34 – Steve Butler has been pounding the LGBT pavement, attending TEP forums and reaching out for our community’s support.


District 35 – Dave Rosenberg will be a strong ally, supporting “domestic partner benefits, dialog between the Metro Police and LGBT community, and promotion of state legislation to permit non-discrimination laws like the one the state previously invalidated.”





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