NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry on Wednesday announced a Democratic run for the U.S. House seat held by Republican Rep. Mark Green, seeking a political comeback more than five years after the fallout from an extramarital affair cut her tenure short.
In an announcement video, Barry cited several reasons for trying to return to elected office — a spate of mass shootings at schools, including earlier this year at a Nashville Christian elementary school; Tennessee's abortion ban; the closure of rural hospitals; and the opioid epidemic.
Barry is running in one of three congressional districts that carved up Nashville during Republican-led redistricting last year. Due to line-drawing efforts by Republican state lawmakers that favor their own party, the GOP last year won another seat that previously centered on Nashville and was long held by Democrats. Barry is running as a Democrat, campaign spokesperson Brian Córdova confirmed.
“I look at the total dysfunction in Congress and its failure to make any kind of difference in the lives of our families,” Barry said. “It's outrageous. We don't have to tolerate it.”
Barry opened her House campaign by mentioning her mistakes without rehashing the details. Once a rising star and leader of a booming Democratic-leaning city from 2015 to 2018, Barry resigned in March 2018 after pleading guilty to felony theft for cheating the city out of thousands of dollars to carry on an affair with her then-police bodyguard. She agreed to reimburse taxpayers $11,000 and had her record expunged after completing probation.
Barry reasoned that she had been mourning the death of her only child, Max, after an overdose on a combination of drugs, including opioids. She also said she took responsibility and worked through it with her husband.
“I don't think anybody should be defined by their worst moments," Barry said. "It's what you do next that counts.”
Since leaving office, Barry has widely shared her son's story in an effort to combat shame and stigma surrounding substance abuse disorders.
Barry will try to make inroads in a district that extends out of Nashville and into 13 Republican-favoring counties. Last year, Green won his third term in Congress over a Democratic opponent by nearly 22 percentage points. Voters in that district favored former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden by 15 percentage points in 2020.
Tennessee's congressional map is facing a federal lawsuit, but that case isn't scheduled to go to trial until April 2025.
As a metro councilmember, Barry officiated the city’s first gay marriage before being elected in 2015. She pushed for tremendous growth, helping shape an ever-changing skyline of construction cranes and new high-rises. She also spearheaded a successful effort to bring professional soccer to Nashville. She was one of the biggest proponents of a transit referendum with light rail, which voters rejected in an election after Barry's resignation.
Green, who served as an Army surgeon and is from Montgomery County, has attacked Democrats on topics ranging from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions to immigration. He has climbed the House ranks to serve as chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. Green once was nominated by Trump to become the Army secretary, but in 2017 withdrew his nomination due to criticisms over his remarks about Muslims and LGBTQ+ Americans.
After Barry's announcement, Green's team said he is “honored to serve and looks forward to continuing to fight for our values and principles," mentioning securing the border, health care and “constitutional rights.”
“From three tours in combat, to the emergency room, to public service, Congressman Green has always put his fellow American before himself," Green's chief of staff, Stephen Siao, said in a written statement.
Jonathan Mattise, The Associated Press