Marquita Bradshaw, a badass activist with exceptional taste in vintage eyewear, beat out establishment favorite James Mackler to win the Democratic nomination for an open Senate seat in Tennessee on Thursday.

By all rights and all common pundit-y wisdom, Mackler should have had it in the bag. He was endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, among so many others. He's an attorney, which is a very nice and appropriate thing for a Senate candidate to be. He was an Army pilot, which is always a good way of signaling "Not one of those America-hating liberals" to a red state like Tennessee. Not to mention the theory that being a military hero is a solid bulwark against rightwing criticism, a belief held deeply by those who have apparently never heard of Johns Kerry and McCain. He also raised over two million dollars in donations.

The very cool thing about Bradshaw's win is that she won on less than $25,000. That is a win for the American people. The amount of money we spend on elections is not only grotesque, but it serves to intimidate people into thinking they can't have a voice in our government unless they have a ton of money or a ton of rich friends. Part of the reason people are so down on publicly funded elections is because it's common wisdom in the United States that a "serious" campaign has to drop a "serious" amount of money, but candidates like Bradshaw are proving that maybe that common wisdom is not so wise after all.


Bradshaw campaigned on supporting universal background checks (she's a Moms Demand mom), Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, funding education as well as we fund our military, a living wage, overturning Citizens United, and keeping DACA. She also supports community policing and restorative justice. Restorative justice is an idea popular in the prison abolition movement that, through a process of mediation between the offender and the victim, addresses criminal acts by seeking to repair the harm to the community by the crime rather than just throwing people in jail and calling it a day. Studies have shown that this process is more effective than punitive justice when it comes to recidivism rates.

In fact, her whole criminal justice platform is awesome, so we're gonna post it in full.

  • Support services while serving time to prepare for reentry into society in order to decrease recidivism.
  • Restore the right to vote following other States' blueprints.
  • Physical and mental health services for those living with addiction.
  • Address the disparities of longer sentences and extended probations.
  • Ensure reentry programs and probation services are not privatized.
  • End wage slavery where incarcerated people get paid below market value for jobs benefiting corporations.
  • I support the full legalization of recreational marijuana. We need to lead Tennessee in this industry that can not only help our economy but also begin to give Black & brown Tennesseans entrepreneurship, alongside restorative justice to those who have been impacted by our outdated & predatory drug laws.

Prison labor has been a serious issue in Tennessee, in particular, for years, so it's pretty great that she's addressing that. In 2015, employees of a for-profit prison were caught using prison labor to line their own pockets by requiring inmates to work on projects they would later sell to flea markets. In 2018, a Tennessee sheriff and captain were arrested for allowing county employees to use prisoners for domestic labor at their own private residences.

Bradshaw will now be facing Republican nominee and Trump favorite Bill Hagerty, the former ambassador to Japan, in the fight to succeed Republican Senator Lamar Alexander. Alexander is retiring this year after 17 years in the Senate, a few years as governor of Tennessee, and also two presidential campaigns in which his platform consisted largely of promising to wear the same plaid shirt all of the time. Both Tennessee seats have been held by a Republican since 1994, Alexander's seat having previously been occupied by Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch Fred Thompson of Law and Order: SVU. But hey! The times they are a changing, and anything is possible, including a Black woman who is a progressive activist and single mother becoming the junior senator from Tennessee and driving Marsha Blackburn right up the damn wall.

[Marquita Bradshaw]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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