(WJHL) — Marquita Bradshaw will tell you she has two full-time jobs.
She’s a full-time caregiver for a special needs adult. “Sometimes I work 10 hours a day, and sometimes 15 hours,” she said during a break from her job. “Like most Americans.”
Her other full-time job is running for the United States Senate from Tennessee as the Democratic Party’s nominee.
“My whole platform is about serving hard working families to have healthy and safe communities,” Bradshaw said, laser focused on the platform that helped her defy the odds and stun the state in the August 5th primary.
Despite the lack of big donors and heavy-hitting endorsements, Bradshaw easily won the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate. She’ll face Republican Bill Hagerty in a bid to replace retiring U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander.
But while others were surprised, Bradshaw was not.
“I was not surprised because I was already seeing the movement happen.”
The native Tennesseean from Memphis raised her son on working-class salary. Her website spells out her platform including Medicare for all, increased spending on public education, support for the Green New Deal environmental policy, a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, universal background checks for gun owners, and the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“Some people call me middle class,” Bradshaw said. “I think of myself as working-class.”
So when she saw donors giving her Senate campaign – many giving just a few dollars and many donating to a campaign for the first time – she suspected something was happening.
“It was where those dollars were coming from and who those dollars were coming from. And they were coming from hardworking families from just like me.”
Her victory August 6th made history. Bradshaw says she’s proud to be the first black woman nominated the United States Senate from Tennessee. But she’ll tell you there’s another emotion in play when she considers her place in state history.
“I’m a little embarrassed that it took this long to happen,” she said. “It’s been 100 years since women won the right to vote. And then still black women and people of color were left out of that process.”
Bradshaw says she grew up in a loving and supportive home and in a neighborhood where people stood up for one another.
She says her grandmother – the rock of her community – helped nurse and her newborn son back to health after they were discharged from the hospital too soon.
It wasn’t until she was older that Bradshaw says she realized she was relatively poor and that her neighborhood was near an environmental superfund site.
She says people in her neighborhood started getting sick.
Her Grandmother died of cancer. Bradshaw and others blamed pollution. “These chemicals polluted the air, soil, surface water, and groundwater of my community,” according to her website.
“This is when and why I got involved in environmental policy,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw openly shares about her financial struggles as a working single mother of a son finishing technical college.
“I’ve been both one job away from middle class and one job-loss away from poverty,” she said on website. “There was a period in my life where I was under-employed without adequate health insurance, but plenty of student loan debt. As a result, I experienced a foreclosure and bankruptcy–the ramifications of which still follow me to this day.”
The contrast in candidates is unavoidable.
In Bill Hagerty, Bradshaw faces a wealthy opponent who won a multi-million dollar Republican primary and has statewide Republican support. He even has a friend in the White House.
President Donald Trump who picked Hagerty to be his Ambassador to Japan has endorsed him for the U.S. Senate on multiple occasions.
Campaign finance records show Hagerty has raised $12.3 million as of July 17th. Bradshaw has raised $13,351 as of March 30th, records show. Updated campaign finance information on Bradshaw was not available on the Federal Election Commission website. News Channel 11 has contacted Bradshaw’s treasurer to learn why, and we’re waiting to hear back.
A Hagerty campaign spokesman didn’t mention Bradshaw by name when contacted by News Channel 11 for this report.
“Tennesseans sent a strong, clear message on primary night – this is a conservative state,” said Abigail Siglar, Hagerty campaign spokesman. “They do not want the socialist policies of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders….Tennesseans want a conservative like Bill Hagerty who will protect our freedoms and defend our American way of life.”
Bradshaw says her financial disadvantage actually is a strength because she’s not beholden to anyone.
“We can not send another millionaire to the U.S. Senate,” she said.
But Bradshaw will tell you she doesn’t have time to talk about Bill Hagerty.
“I don’t have time to think about an opponent when I’m thinking about serving the public,” she said.
Bradshaw says she will not debate Hagerty.
Instead, she says she’ll work to visit all 95 Tennessee counties before election day.
“The time is now – the time to send a hard working person to represent hard working Tennesseans,” Bradshaw said.