NASHVILLE — In her acceptance speech on Thursday, Mayor-elect Megan Barry, a candidate characterized as a purveyor of “extreme” leftist views in a bruising runoff here, mentioned the various residents who would write the next chapter for this fast-growing Southern city. In a notably nonextreme move, she spoke first of the city’s business community.“They need a mayor who will help recruit and retain the talent so that Nashville can energize and reach our full potential,” she said.
It is telling, in 21st-century Nashville, that many here find Ms. Barry’s liberal reputation and pro-business rhetoric to be complementary rather than contradictory. Ms. Barry, 51, earned that reputation during eight years on the Metropolitan Council, where she was an outspoken advocate for abortion rights, same-sex marriage and a minimum-wage increase. It was a reputation she did not retreat from over the past week as she handily defeated her decidedly more conservative rival, David Fox, 54, a former hedge-fund manager.Ms. Barry’s victory — she will be first female mayor of this city, chartered in 1806 — was made possible, in part, by the support of a significant segment of Nashville’s business class. It is a dynamic now common in many heartland and Southern states, where urban centers are often blue havens in vast seas of Republican red. In many cities, large businesses have lent their support to socially liberal policies, on the theory that they might fight outsiders’ perceptions of entrenched intolerance and make it easier to do the recruiting and retention that Ms. Barry mentioned, particularly of young, tech-savvy employees.