Marquita Bradshaw: ‘Not a fringe campaign’

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 29, 2020 4:00 AM CT | Published: August 29, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Marquita Bradshaw says her upset win in the August primary is no fluke and wasn’t a surprise to her.

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“This is not a fringe campaign,” Bradshaw said Thursday, Aug. 27, during a break in the recording of the WKNO Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines.”

Since primary election night and her decisive victory over frontrunner James Mackler of Nashville, Bradshaw says she has raised 10 times more than what she spent on the primary campaign.

<strong>Marquita Bradshaw</strong>

Marquita Bradshaw

That’s $270,000 compared to $24,000. It’s nowhere near the $1 million threshold politicos consider necessary to run a viable statewide campaign in Tennessee.

“All of those are hard-working dollars that are going to go a long way to make sure that we secure the United States Senate,” Bradshaw said on the program. “We will still use the principles of grass roots organizing. We’ll just have a lot more tools with the money that we are able to bring in.”

By contrast, Republican nominee Bill Hagerty reported $2.6 million on hand as early voting was underway in the August federal primaries.

Bradshaw calls her campaign a “people’s platform” built around issues of health care, the environment, the economy and education.

“And all of those things are intertwined together,” she said. “Viability looks different when hard-working people pull together and put forth a platform that represents the issues and the truth of what people are experiencing in the state of Tennessee.”

Bradshaw upsets political world with U.S. Senate primary win

Bradshaw is a community organizer with 25 years experience, much of it in the Defense Depot area of South Memphis. In that time, she’s built up a statewide network connected to other organizers who in recent years have started to make the transition from issues to elections as candidates and campaigners.

Bradshaw has also been involved in workshops and efforts to help with the transition to running for elected office.

“If you take how what happened in my community in South Memphis about the loss of manufacturing jobs, how small businesses that were once thriving disappeared and how the education system in not equitable – if you take South Memphis out of it, it can fit any town in rural Tennessee,” she said.

“People don’t have access to medical care. We should include mental health services and wrap-around services for people to get over addictions,” Bradshaw said. “If you look at what people need across the state of Tennessee, and the lack of hospitals, it’s the same thing that’s happening all across the state.”

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Paying for that would require a shift in what the federal government funds.

“Nobody ever asks how do we pay for our military,” she said.

Bradshaw’s primary campaign had a statewide reach among Democrats. She beat Mackler in Nashville, where he is from, and carried counties in eastern Tennessee, where the Democratic base is much smaller than the Republican base.

She believes there are Republican votes to be had for a campaign that emphasizes environmental racism and points to a map of 1,100 Superfund sites across the state.

“It’s neither Republican nor Democrat,” she said of the state’s political definition. “And we have a lot of apathy – people who have lost faith in the process. The Republican faction is only a small minute part of the whole demographic of voters.”

Bradshaw spoke the same day that the state’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Marsha Blackburn, was among the speakers at the final night of the Republican National Convention.

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Meanwhile, Hagerty, who has been invited to appear on “Behind the Headlines” also, has shuffled his campaign team a bit with the transition to the general election, sticking with the Nashville-based Baker Group founded by strategist Ward Baker.

<strong>Bill Hagerty</strong>

Bill Hagerty

The firm ran Blackburn’s winning 2018 campaign for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat.

Baker is a veteran of the National Republican Senatorial Committee as its executive director after serving as political director in the 2014 midterm elections in which Republicans became the majority in the Senate.

Hunter Goh becomes political director of the Hagerty campaign. He was a deputy field director of Blackburn’s campaign and was on the team of former U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s unsuccessful Republican primary bid for governor earlier in 2018.

The Black and Blackburn campaigns had a formula of emphasizing allegiance to Trump in all things without hesitation.

Hagerty, Bradshaw to meet in November Senate race

Hagerty’s campaign to the August primary used the same formula, with Hagerty linking Democrats in the House and Senate to riots and disorder in Portland, Oregon, and other cities. Hagerty rarely refers to Democrats by a single word – using a blanket “Democratic socialists” to refer to the rival party and its partisans.

Primary rival Dr. Manny Sethi of Nashville challenged Hagerty’s conservative credentials and Trump credentials. He emphasized Hagerty’s status as the state chairman for the campaign of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Hagerty was also Trump’s 2016 state campaign chairman and appointed by Trump to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

Otherwise, Sethi too blamed Democrats for the civil unrest and professed loyalty to Trump.

Sethi closed in the polls late in the primary with Trump adding two online endorsements of Hagerty and Blackburn campaigning with Hagerty during early voting in a primary dominated at the end by attack ads from both camps.

Shelby County Aug. 6 election vote totals

By election day, it was no contest even in Memphis, where Sethi campaigned early and Hagerty followed Blackburn’s formula of campaigning here very little.

Hagerty beat Sethi in Shelby County, the state’s largest base of Republican voters in a single Tennessee county, by a two-to-one margin.

Bradshaw was almost a three-to-one winner over Mackler among Shelby County Democratic primary voters with a higher turnout than Republicans in a county that is also home to the largest base of Democratic voters in a single Tennessee county.

Turnout was higher in the Republican primary statewide than the Democratic primary and the margin between Hagerty and Sethi was closer but Hagerty’s victory was decisive.

“Behind the Headlines” is hosted by Eric Barnes of The Daily Memphian. It airs on WKNO Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. It can also be seen on The Behind The Headlines Podcast.

Listen to the podcast or watch this week’s episode at the top of the page.

Produced by Natalie Van Gundy

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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