Bill Lee quits business coalition board that endorsed candidate in Nashville mayor’s race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee resigned from the board of the Nashville Business Coalition Wednesday after the group publicly urged Democrat David Briley to seek election as Nashville mayor and called on other prospective candidates to stay out of the race, reports Tennessee Star. Briley, who had been vice mayor, took over duties as mayor following the resignation of former mayor Megan Barry this week.

“I strongly disagree with the Nashville Business Coalition’s decision about the Nashville Mayoral race, and I opposed them taking this action. As a result, I have resigned from their board, effective immediately,” Lee said in a tweet.

“Leadership groups should not discourage others from entering the political process,” Lee added in a statement released to The Star.

“Nashville has many talented individuals who are extremely qualified to be considered for leadership roles and our community would benefit from their ideas. We should encourage more people to enter the political arena, not less,” Lee concluded.

Excerpt from The Tennessean report on the coalition’s endorsement of Briley:

Calling for stability, the influential Nashville Business Coalition, in a bluntly worded statement, encouraged Briley to announce his run and urged other possible contenders not to get in. The group, which includes backing from the chamber of commerce, argued that Metro government needs continuity and to avoid the possibility of four different mayoral administration over a year and a half.

It’s an attempt to avoid a heavily contested six-month sprint to the Aug. 2 election, only to have another crowded field in 2019.

But at least one other potential candidate is already taking steps to run this year. At-large Councilwoman Erica Gilmore filed paperwork Wednesday to appoint a treasurer for a possible mayoral run. Meanwhile, several others are actively exploring possible campaigns.

…“We encourage all qualified candidates to give the voters of this great city ample opportunity to do what they have done so very well over the last quarter century — elect a great mayor,” said Nancy Stabell, the coalition’s chair. “We simply don’t believe that there is sufficient time between now and the August special election to allow voters that opportunity.

“Additionally, continuity of leadership over the next 18 months is absolutely critical to sustain Nashville’s success, and no one candidate’s political ambition should take precedence over what’s truly best for the city over the long term.”

… No one has formally entered this year’s race. And despite the business coalition’s endorsement, Briley has not said whether he will run.

“There’s plenty of days for politics, but this ain’t one of them,” Briley said shortly after his swearing-in Tuesday.

Nevertheless, several names have emerged as possible contenders.

In addition to Briley and Gilmore, they include Nashville real estate professional Bill Freeman and businessman David Fox, who both lost to Barry in the 2015 election, Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, businessman Stuart McWhorter, At-large Councilman John Cooper, and state Rep. Harold Love Jr.

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