Marquita Bradshaw

Hagerty wins U.S. Senate race in Tennessee

Republican Bill Hagerty speaks to a reporter before casting his early vote in Nashville on Oct. 21, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former Ambassador Bill Hagerty has won the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee, according to The Associated Press.

Hagerty will succeed U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) who is retiring after three terms.

“Congratulations to Bill Hagerty on tonight’s impressive victory. I have been proud to support Bill to occupy the Senate seat that Howard Baker, Al Gore, Fred Thompson and I all have held,” Alexander said in a statement. “He will be a terrific United States Senator for all Tennesseans.”

Hagerty faced Democrat Marquita Bradshaw, a Memphis environmental activist, in the general election.

Most of the action in the Senate contest came during the Republican primary, in which Hagerty prevailed over Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi by 11 points after a spirited campaign featuring heavy outside spending.

Biden endorses Brashaw

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw has received the endorsement of her party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Bradshaw faces Republican Bill Hagerty, who has carried President Donald Trump’s endorsement since before he even officially entered the race.

Here’s the release from the Bradshaw campaign:

Nashville, Tenn. (Oct. 26, 2020) — After taking the stage in Nashville for the final presidential debate last week, former Vice President Joe Biden is lending his support to the state’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Marquita Bradshaw. 

“Marquita is a proven leader who will fight for the needs of working families — needs she understands because she’s faced the same struggles they have. I am proud to endorse Marquita’s candidacy for U.S. Senate,” Biden said.

Bradshaw is a working-class single mom from Memphis who has dedicated her life to advocating for environmental justice, workers’ rights, education reform, tax reform and trade policies that help local communities. She won the Democratic primary with a surge of grassroots support against a well-funded opponent with only $22,000 in her campaign budget.

Bradshaw’s people-powered campaign is now rewriting the political playbook in Tennessee with the state on pace to have its largest voter turnout in history. With another week of early vote still to go, more Democrats have already early voted in this election than in 2018 or 2016. Bradshaw’s campaign is proving that Tennessee is not a “red state,” but instead, a low-turnout state — a historic trend that this election is changing with nearly 1 million new active voters since 2018.

Bradshaw became an advocate for environmental justice after growing up near a military landfill that poisoned her community with the remains of chemical agents and nuclear weapons. Her volunteer advocacy efforts led her to a career as a paid organizer for labor rights. Like many Americans, she faced job loss and foreclosure during the Great Recession in 2008.

“I know what it’s like to be living one paycheck away from poverty, and to feel the crushing weight of student loan debt and medical bills, while trying to care for your family,” Bradshaw said. “There is so much divisiveness in this country, but at the end of the day, we all want the same things — wages we can live on, good schools for our kids, and communities that are safe and healthy. I look forward to working as a Senator with the Biden administration to accomplish this vision for our country together.”  

In just the last few weeks, the campaign has opened seven offices across the state and received key endorsements from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC, and held a virtual fundraising event with former presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg. On Tuesday last week, a telethon-style fundraiser hosted by Third Man Records featured performances by more than 50 musicians and artists. The average donation to Bradshaw’s campaign is less than $25.

Bradshaw raises $893K since surprise win in Democratic Senate primary

Memphis environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw, the surprise winner of the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate despite spending just $22,300 on her primary campaign, raised $893,000 in the third quarter.

Bradshaw is the first African-American woman to win a statewide primary in Tennessee. Her campaign said she has received more than 23,000 contributions, averaging $24.12.

“Our campaign isn’t funded by millionaires and billionaires, but by hardworking Tennesseans,” campaign manager Ken Taylor said in a release. “So, our total raised may still be just a fraction of what our opponent has already spent, but a single mom knows how to make a dollar stretch in a way a rich man simply doesn’t.”

Bradshaw faces Republican Bill Hagerty in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville).

UPDATE: The Hagerty camp says he raised $1.26 million in the quarter.

(This post has been updated to reflect Bradshaw’s fundraising totals for the third quarter, and Hagerty’s since the Aug. 6 election).

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Bradshaw calls for U.S. Senate debate with Hagerty

Democrat Marquita Bradshaw is calling for debate with Republican U.S. Senate rival Bill Hagerty.

“I believe that voters across our state deserve to hear more about my policy platform and how it contrasts with the views of my opponent,” Bradshaw said in a release. “We have been a grassroots campaign from the beginning, but we did what many thought was impossible and won the Democratic nomination with a groundswell of energy from volunteers across the state. I invite my opponent to join me in giving Tennesseans what they deserve: an open and honest debate over the issues they care about most.”

The Hagerty camp has been in discussions about a debate with Bradshaw, but has argued against including various independent candidates.

The Memphis Flyer’s Jackson Backer recently reported that an effort by the Nextstar Media Group to put on a U.S. Senate debate had fallen apart. The invitation for the debate, which would have taken place Oct. 14 at WKRN-TV studios in Nashville, included a requirement to have raised $50,000, with at least half coming from in-state donors. That would have been an easy hurdle for Hagerty to clear, although Bradshaw won despite raising just $22,321 through her most recent report. While donations have spiked since she became Tennessee’s first black woman to win a statewide nomination, the next filings aren’t due until Oct. 15.

Nextstar’s other Tennessee stations are in Memphis, Knoxville, Johnson City, and Jackson.

The Flyer reports that candidate Aaron James, one of nine independents appearing on the ballot, cited Federal Election Commission equal time provisions in seeking to be included in the debate.

The AP’s Kimberlee Kruesi reports Bradshaw’s position appears to be a bit of a reversal:

“Do you hope to debate him at some point?” WJHL-TV anchor Josh Smith asked Bradshaw on Sept. 2.

“No,” Bradshaw answered. 

Before that, in an Aug. 22 WKRN-TV interview, Bradshaw told the news station she was also not interested in debating Hagerty because “he used hatred to drive a message of division.” 

Campaign spokesperson Abigail Sigler said Hagerty had no debate “to commit to” because of Bradshaw’s comments saying she wouldn’t participate in a debate and no other Senate candidate was qualified for the Oct. 14 debate.

Buttigeig endorses Bradshaw, Harris

Pete Buttigeig (Photo credit: Win the Era)

Former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigeig is endorsing Tennessee Democratic candidates Marquita Bradshaw for U.S. Senate and Torrey Harris for state House.

Bradshaw was the surprise winner of the Democratic nomination in August over Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee favorite James Mackler, who ended up finishing third.

According to a Buttigeig statement posted by his Win the Era organization:

Marquita Bradshaw has spent her career advocating for her community and connecting with people around shared policy outcomes. These efforts are now the cornerstone of her groundbreaking, inspiring campaign. She knows first hand that policy should reflect the lived experiences of the people they are designed to help. She will bring this same perspective to the halls of the Senate and I’m excited to support Marquita in her historic run to represent the hard-working people of Tennessee.

Harris won the House District 90 nomination in Memphis after the state Democratic Party booted longtime state Rep. John DeBerry from its primary ballot due to his propensity of voting with Republicans on issues ranging from abortion to school vouchers.

Here’s what Buttigeig had to say about him:

Through Torrey Harris’ tireless work as a community advocate, he has modeled a willingness to listen, empower, and serve. That is exactly the type of leadership this moment demands and I’m proud to support his campaign.

Meanwhile, DeBerry was endorsed by the Americans for Prosperity and Republican U.S. Senate Bill Hagerty got the nod from the National Federation of Independent Business.

According to NFIB National Political Director Sharon Sussin:

Bill Hagerty has a true understanding of the challenges our members are facing. We have no doubt that he will be an excellent champion for them in the Senate, and we are pleased to endorse him”

Delayed Bradshaw filing gives more complete picture of how little it took to win Democratic nod

Fifty-eight days after it was due, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Marquita Bradshaw has filed her second-quarter campaign finance disclosure. It shows the upset winner of the Aug. 6 primary had spent all of $15,947 through the first half of the year.

That compares with the $1.4 million Nashville attorney James Mackler had spent to that point. Mackler ended up finishing third in contest to Bradshaw and Robin Kimbrough.

Bradshaw spent about $8,500 in the second quarter, with the largest portion ($4,400) going to Cincinnati-based media consultant Putting Women in Their Place.

Bradshaw raised $18,301 through the first two quarters of the year, including $5,941 in the most recent period. About 63% of her contributions were unitimized.

Bradshaw faces Republican Bill Hagerty (who had spent $1.4 million through the second quarter) in the general election.

UPDATE: Bradshaw’s pre-primary report is in now, too. It shows she raised a total of $23,221 and spent $21,617.

Another Dem joins the U.S. Senate race

A third Democrat has joined the U.S. Senate race. The Nashville Post’s Stephen Elliott reports Diana Onyejiaka, a Nashville consultant and professor, has filed federal paperwork to join the race to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville).

Nashville attorney James Mackler, who stepped aside from the open 2018 race to make way for former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, joined the 2020 race in January. He’s raised close to $900,000 and spent $611,000 on that effort so far. Memphis environmentalist Marquita Bradshaw announced she was joining the race last month.

Elliott reports Onyejiaka’s firm, DC Consult, helped organize this year’s U.S.-Africa Business Opportunities and Exchange Conference at Tennessee State University this year. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants has taught law and government courses as an adjunct professor at TSU and Middle Tennessee State University.

“I felt like there was a need to have somebody like myself representing the state of Tennessee,” she told the Post. 

“A Democrat can win this race by speaking to the issues and not getting political,” Onyejiaka said. “I’m running as a public servant.”