Nashville, TN – The recent local elections in Nashville have shown the growing influence of immigrant and Black voters in the city’s politics. Out of the 26 candidates endorsed by TIRRC Votes, a political action committee that supports pro-immigrant policies, 21 won their races. Among them were four immigrants who made history by becoming the first elected officials from their respective communities.
Zulfat Suara: The first Muslim and Nigerian-American council member
Zulfat Suara, a certified public accountant and community activist, won one of the five at-large seats on the Metro Council, making her the first Muslim and Nigerian-American to serve on the city’s legislative body. Suara, who moved to Nashville in 1998, said she ran for office to represent the diversity of the city and to advocate for issues such as affordable housing, education, and transportation.
Suara faced several challenges during her campaign, including Islamophobic attacks and threats. She also had to overcome a lawsuit that sought to disqualify her from the ballot based on her citizenship status. Suara, who became a U.S. citizen in 2019, said she was grateful for the support she received from various groups and individuals, including Mayor John Cooper, who endorsed her in the runoff election.
Sandra Sepulveda: The first Latina council member
Sandra Sepulveda, a social worker and community organizer, won the District 30 seat on the Metro Council, becoming the first Latina to serve on the council. Sepulveda, who was born in Mexico and moved to Nashville as a child, said she ran for office to bring more representation and resources to her district, which has a large immigrant population.
Sepulveda said she was inspired by her parents, who worked hard to provide for their family and to become U.S. citizens. She said she wants to improve the quality of life for her constituents by addressing issues such as infrastructure, public safety, and economic development.
Kyonzte Toombs: The first Black woman to represent District 2
Kyonzte Toombs, an attorney and former Metro government employee, won the District 2 seat on the Metro Council, becoming the first Black woman to represent the district. Toombs, who grew up in Nashville, said she ran for office to bring more accountability and transparency to the council and to advocate for issues such as affordable housing, education, and health care.
Toombs said she was motivated by her personal experiences of overcoming poverty and homelessness as a child. She said she wants to empower her constituents by providing them with more opportunities and access to services.
Brandon Taylor: The first openly gay Black council member
Brandon Taylor, a real estate agent and community leader, won the District 21 seat on the Metro Council, becoming the first openly gay Black council member in Nashville’s history. Taylor, who moved to Nashville in 2013, said he ran for office to bring more diversity and inclusion to the council and to address issues such as affordable housing, transportation, and public safety.
Taylor said he was influenced by his grandmother, who taught him the importance of civic engagement and social justice. He said he wants to create a more equitable and sustainable city for all residents.
The impact of immigrant and Black voters
The victories of these candidates reflect the changing demographics and political preferences of Nashville’s voters. According to TIRRC Votes, immigrant voters make up about 10% of the city’s electorate, and they tend to vote for candidates who support pro-immigrant policies such as driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, in-state tuition for immigrant students, and sanctuary city policies.
Black voters also play a significant role in Nashville’s politics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black residents make up about 28% of the city’s population, and they tend to vote for candidates who support racial justice and equity policies such as police reform, criminal justice reform, and economic empowerment.
The election results show that immigrant and Black voters are not only increasing in numbers but also in influence. They are shaping Nashville’s political landscape by electing candidates who reflect their values and interests.