Politics » Politics Feature

“I’m No Newcomer”

Bradshaw cites experience; commission and administration at odds; Cohen on Republicans, TVA.

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Who is Marquita Bradshaw? That question got asked a lot last Thursday night, when the Memphis woman took the lead in the Democratic primary's field of five for United States Senate and kept it all the way until the last votes were counted.

Marquita Bradshaw
  • Marquita Bradshaw

That race was supposed by most political observers to be in the bag for Nashville lawyer and Iraq war vet James Mackler, who had been campaigning for two years and raised some $2 million.

Bradshaw, whose receipts were in the low thousands, is surprised that anybody was surprised and seems offended at those who attributed her win to her name being atop the ballot.

"I've been an organizer within my community for over 25 years, working on environmental justice issues. And that wasn't just within Memphis, but that was across the nation and internationally," she said this week in a telephone interview. "I went through the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute, and I became a union organizer. But before then I was working with an environmental justice network with people across the United States on issues of environmental racism."

She added: "I've been around. I've just been an organizer. It's not a surprise to anybody in the social justice community, or anybody that's in labor, that we're here right now."

She also can claim a long history as an environmentalist: "I'm on the Sierra Club executive committee, and I also serve on the Chickasaw Group." She also went through the Leaders of Color education initiative.

And, as far as political campaigns go, this was not her first rodeo. Bradshaw has experience working in political races. She is the daughter of Doris DeBerry-Bradshaw, who has been a political candidate, and she is the niece of John DeBerry, the longtime incumbent State Representative from House District 90.

So it is clear that, unlike so many people's assumptions, she is not a complete novice, and Democrats, who haven't had much success with statewide elections in recent years, can only hope that her name recognition — along with sources of support — continues to expand as she faces the GOP's well-heeled Senatorial nominee, the Trump-supported Bill Hagerty.

• At a point well into the 2020-21 fiscal year, the Shelby County budget situation is still in confusion, with members of the county commission still uncertain as to whether funds are on hand for a variety of county programs.

One persistent issue during the commission's regular public meeting on Monday was the matter of a finished budget book, which could spell out in some specificity the county's assets, liabilities, and available funds. But, just as during what seemed an interminable struggle to produce a budget in early summer, the commission and the administration of Mayor Lee Harris are having difficulty agreeing on means and ends and on what the facts are.

An early resolution on the commission's Monday agenda attempted to open the way toward terminating a current hiring freeze and to establish August 19th as the date for receipt of a budget book from the administration. Dwan Gilliom, the administration CAO, could promise no date for the book other than "early September," while county financial officer Mathilde Crosby indicated that no additional funds could be freed up and no exchange could be worked out whereby federal funding for COVID purposes could be "swapped out" to enable equivalent funding opportunities in the county's general fund.

Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. noted that the Memphis City Council had done something similar with its federal COVID funds and wondered why the commission couldn't do the same. Commissioner Van Turner followed up by prodding the administration to "show some cooperation."

• Ninth District Congressman Steve Cohen, in the first Zoom press availability since his renomination in last week's election, told reporters Tuesday that President Trump and Republicans in Congress continue to be unserious in negotiations for a renewed coronavirus aid package, and stressed that, in addition to such matters as unemployment insurance and another stimulus round, funding for the U.S. Postal Service, election security, and public nutrition is at stake.

"I think they lie about everything," Cohen said, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the sweep of his remarks. The Congressman also continued in his criticism of the Tennessee Valley Authority, saying, "TVA is not what it used to be. It isn't what Franklin D. Roosevelt created. Their electric rates are among the highest in the country."

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