LOS ANGELES, January 14, 2014—Senate candidate Brenda Lenard hopes to give 12-year incumbent Senator Lamar Alexander a run for his money in 2014. “Sometimes when you’re in office for a long period of time, you do become too comfortable with your position,” Ms. Lenard told Communities Digital News (CDN). “Instead of listening to the voice of the people, you’re listening to the voice of people who fund your campaign. From the get-go when you change who funds your campaign you change who you are in Washington,”
Establishment Republicans and some moderate conservatives consider it bad business to primary incumbents, convinced that it only ensures victory for the opposing party. But with the current administration, and the poor leadership in both houses of Congress, there is a fire being stoked for grassroots conservative candidates. Conservative activists, foot soldiers, and the average Joe are no longer automatically backing incumbents. The playing field is ripe for fresh voices, and Brenda Lenard is placing her marker on the field.
Despite two Republican Senators (Sen. Alexander and Sen. Robert Corker), the demographics of Tennessee are no lock for any candidate. The state cannot be classified as blue, red, or purple; Neapolitan is a more apt description. “The state has three broad groups,” Ms. Lenard explained. “West Tennessee (Memphis) is predominantly urban, the majority of African-Americans live here, and it is more Democrat-leaning. In the middle of Tennessee (Nashville), you have both conservatives and liberals. And when you go to the Eastern part of the state (Knoxville), it’s more conservative Republican. Tennessee has a broad mix of people and ideologies.”
George Elsenbach, who hails from the central part of state, had never heard of Ms. Lenard’s candidacy, and when informed about it, he responded, “Is she running against Lamar Alexander? If so she’s got my vote! Alexander’s a RINO that needs to go.”
George echoed Ms. Lenard’s concerns about Washington. “They don’t really listen to what their constituents have to say. My opinion is they fight for little things that’ll make them appear like they’re doing their job, but the major things they seem to fold on, not supporting or thinking of the people who sent them there.”
Ms. Lenard acknowledges that overcoming the odds of her being sworn into the United States Senate requires “faith of nails.” It would also make history: Tennessee has yet to elect a Black or a woman of any race to the United States Senate. Should Ms. Lenard succeed, she would kill two birds with one stone.
Ms. Lenard’s mother serves as an example of perseverance when the odds are not in your favor. Her mother raised six children by herself, while holding down several jobs.
“My mother was someone who could have used [government] help, but who did not compromise. We can’t just completely compromise in the name of ‘we want to win’. Simply put, I believe in the American spirit, the American people, and I believe in my campaign.”
After losing her six-month-old son Daniel to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Ms. Lenard found renewed purpose in seeking to become a public servant. “I went back to school, completed a bachelors degree, then a masters degree, and now I’m completing my Ph.D. It was then that I began to see the opportunities for people like me were starting to dissipate. I wanted to make sure the opportunities for people like me would still exist.”
When asked what exactly she meant by “people like her”, Brenda once again evoked her mother. “At one point, we actually lived in an abandoned apartment, yet my mother constantly reminded us that we could be or do anything we wanted to become. So, what I mean by opportunities for people like me is that regardless of your background, your income, your socioeconomic status, we have the Constitution. If we did not have a system in place, there’s no way that a person like me, whose family is not of the top three percent, would be able to navigate, and struggle, and fight to get to the place where I am the next U.S. Senate candidate. Where else but in America can these opportunities exist?”
Any political race is an uphill battle, and Ms. Lenard faces a political and financial machine in the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), as well as the opposing side. She has already encountered the bloody process of candidate vetting, and the reach of social media.
The Daily Caller published an article in May of 2012 that reported information about Ms. Lenard’s “history of fraud and bankruptcy” and how it could “pose a problem for her candidacy.” Other publications, including The Knoxville News Sentinel and Tea Party Nation picked up the story, which Ms. Lenard claims is false.
Ms. Lenard set the record straight on these accusations in an August Murfreesboro Post article. A.J. Dugger wrote, “‘I was the victim of a crime,’ Lenard explained. ‘Someone passed a bad check to me. I simply deposited the check not knowing that the culprit had given me a bad check. I’m happy that I am able to set the record straight. I was surprised that someone could get away with printing something so false. Sensationalism sells, but I wish they (the journalists) would be more concerned with journalistic integrity instead of writing tabloid trash.’”
As for the claim that she abused the bankruptcy system, Ms. Lenard was matter-of-fact. Because she could not retain an attorney, she made errors, and would incorrectly re-file to correct those errors, and not in an attempt to game the system. “When I address the issue of bankruptcy I make sure that people understand one thing: I had a challenge, it wasn’t my fault, but instead of making excuses for it, I rose above it and I moved on. Instead of excuses, I found solutions.”
Challenges are the rally point for Ms. Lenard, and give her impetus to keep telling her story. “Listen, every single week we get a new person who says, ‘I just found out about you.’ I am so excited and optimistic and hopeful that people, once they hear about me—it will be phenomenal!”
Ms. Lenard is determined to run a campaign that does not require being beholden to outside interests. The campaign is wholly reliant on individual contributions, even as little as three dollars. “I feel very confident that if I become beholden to special interest, it no longer is Brenda Lenard voice of America, it’s Brenda Lenard the voice of a PAC. I have to live on a meager campaign budget, but that keeps me free and honest. I want to be a different candidate. The difference does not occur when I’m in Washington, it occurs on the campaign trail.”
So if you are a Tennessee resident who believes in the triumph of grassroots conservatism over the entrenched establishment, then Brenda Lenard might be your candidate. You can keep up with her candidacy, including how to become a “Friend of Brenda Lenard” by going to the campaign website: brendalendard.com.