Activist Marquita Bradshaw sees upset win in Tennessee senate primary

Community leader wins election with an unpaid staff and $20,000 in campaign funding

An environmental activist has won the Democratic primary for Senate in Tennessee. Marquita Bradshaw will face Republican Bill Hagerty who was a former U.S. Ambassador to Japan. 

Bradshaw was an unlikely competitor; the single mother and environmentalist defeated Nashville attorney James Mackler. He was endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other notable organizations. 

READ MORE: Harrison, Graham tied at polls heading into SC Senate election

The Bradshaw campaign had no paid staff and $20,000. Yet, her grassroots campaign touched the people. “I am so appreciative of the movement we have built across Tennessee of hardworking families,” Bradshaw said outside her home Thursday night. 

“This is not just Marquita right now. You are looking at hardworking families across Tennessee who want healthy and safe communities.”

Reporters called Bradshaw’s win “stunning.” 

Bradshaw now has a long fight ahead to November. The seat she is running for was previously held by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. Republicans have held both Senate seats in the state since 1994. 

The Republican challenger, Bill Hagerty, has been endorsed by President Donald Trump who offered his endorsement over a year ago via Twitter. The president called him “strong on crime, borders & our 2nd A (amendment).” He continued, “Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!” 

At that time, Hagerty called serving in the Trump administration the “honor of a lifetime.” He said that he entered the Senate race after seeing Tennessee be “threatened” by a Democratic “socialist agenda.” 

READ MORE: Senate cancels hearing for Trump nominee after outrage over alleged racism

According to Yahoo News, Hagerty has spent more than $9.6 million on the race through mid-July. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, he has opposed a statewide mask mandate. 

A native of Memphis, Bradshaw tweeted, “I am so proud to be your candidate. We are moving Tennessee forward– together!”

In her acceptance speech, she said that her next goal is to raise money. Marquita Bradshaw is the first Black woman nominated for U.S. Senate in Tennessee’s history.

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