Marquita Bradshaw wasn't supposed to win the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat. She's also the underdog in November's election against Republican Bill Hagerty in the battle to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
She's an outsider with momentum and understands what has carried her this far for this long.
"I saw the pathway to victory by building alliances of working people and communities across this state," Bradshaw told a crowd of about 40 in Chattanooga on Friday afternoon. "Our pathway to victory has always been working together. I don't care how much money you have. If you don't have people, you can't go nowhere. We are all connected, and we need to start acting like it."
Bradshaw was in Chattanooga as part of a statewide tour, during which she hopes to hit every one of Tennessee's 95 counties. She was joined by Democrat Meg Gorman, candidate for the District 3 Congressional seat; Glenn Scruggs, candidate for Tennessee's District 10 Senate seat and Chattanooga's assistant police chief; Yusuf Hakeem, District 28 state representative; and Tennessee House Minority Leader Karen Camper.
Scruggs opened the event by saying how important it is for Americans to remember those who were lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Hakeem mentioned there is an "invisible man" in America today, one that is ignored, overlooked, treated unjustly and otherwise forgotten about. That man, Hakeem said, is the Black man.
He and Camper talked about how important it is to fill out census forms and the importance of exercising the right to vote.
"We have to ask ourselves what role we want to play in history," Camper said.
Gorman — who is running against Rep. Chuck Fleischmann — rallied on increasing the minimum wage, giving more people access to affordable health care and how the pandemic put working people in the spotlight of America's strength.
Bradshaw has said she has been "one job away from middle class and one job-loss away from poverty." She said she was once under-employed, riddled with student loan debt and without adequate health insurance. Then she experienced a foreclosure and bankruptcy.
Democrat Bradshaw, the first Black female Senate nominee in state history, won 111,947 votes or 36.4% of the vote statewide.
Bradshaw grew up in south Memphis and attended the University of Memphis. She has worked with community advocacy groups, environmental organizations and unions, including the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club and Tennesseans for Fair Taxation. She has not held public office.
Bradshaw, who got into environmental issues because of an old U.S. Army facility crammed with hazardous waste near her Shelby County home, now faces Republican Senate nominee Bill Hagerty, a private equity fund manager and President Donald Trump's former U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Hagerty emerged from a tense GOP primary battle with Nashville physician Manny Sethi with 50.7% of the vote in the multi-candidate field.
"Tennesseans are clear: they do not want the socialist policies of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Washington liberals which includes the Green New Deal, free health care for illegal immigrants and rioting and looting in the streets," reads a Friday statement from Michael Byerly, campaign spokesman for Hagerty. "Tennesseans want a conservative businessman like Bill Hagerty representing them in the United States Senate who will help get our economy going again, create more jobs, provide law and order and defend our American way of life."
Bradshaw is proud of her South Memphis roots. She called out North Nashville and East Chattanooga as similar types of neighborhoods where people grow up with a sense of pride about where they're from, what they went through and also where residents are marginalized.
"I want them to know that this America is for everyone," Bradshaw said. "People starting building hypocrisy to keep people out. Hypocrisy will kill democracy, and it's up to us to fight for it."
Bradshaw supports the Green New Deal, expanding Medicare, increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour and universal background checks for guns, according to her campaign.
"I don't know if y'all saw the primary, but it was $25,000 that we raised before Election Day," Bradshaw said. "We flipped viability on its head. For you non-believers, just wait until No. 4 and see what working people can do."
Contact Patrick Filbin at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.