LOS ANGELES, December 13, 2013—United States Senate candidate Brenda Lenard appeared a bit rough around the edges as she explained her platform and governing concepts. This is not a bad thing; smooth talk, and glib answers are the hallmark of politicians—and most Americans have had enough of them. ‘
Lenard is campaigning as the only sensible choice for the state of Tennessee, and she has 10 months to convince Tennesseans of this.
Establishment Republicans and even 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. House Speaker John Boehner’s insult to conservative groups on the heels of the budget agreement has only added fuel to this. All bets are off as 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.
“This is what I say to that. If you sit back and do absolutely nothing, you’re guaranteed of one thing: failure. But when you get out there and try, there’s success in trying. I would encourage anyone, especially if they are not political insiders, to get out there and let their voice be heard.”
Lenard is is up against 11-year incumbent Senator Lamar Alexander, seen as the definition of “establishment” to many Tea Party conservatives. “Sometimes when you’re in office for a long period of time, you do become too comfortable with your position. Instead of listening to the voice of the people, you’re listening to the voice of people who fund your campaign,” Lenard said.
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,” 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.” Yet another example of the grassroots fire being set ablaze.
Elsenbach echoed 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.”
Lenard’s flame was sparked after the unfortunate death of her six-month-old child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). “That’s when I found purpose in my life. At that point, I went back to school, completed a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s 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,” Lenard proudly evoked her mother, who raised six children by herself, while holding down several jobs. “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. People like me can be a part of the system. I have been able to navigate, and struggle, and fight to get to the place where I am the next U.S. Senate candidate.
“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 make it. Where else but in America can these opportunities exist?”
Lenard’s platform is not unique. Like many conservatives, she feels as though these opportunities and the American way of life are under attack through government regulation, higher taxation, and restrictions on individual freedoms. “We are drowning in debt. This is what a lot of people may not actually realize, but when the true inflation numbers hit, it is going to affect the poor and minorities in ways we have not seen yet.”
When asked about the current budget deal, Lenard gave the most striking analogy: “It’s not a real answer. All it does is put a Band-Aid on cancer.”
Any political race is an uphill battle, and Lenard faces a political and financial machine in the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), as well as the opposing side. In 2012, she 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 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. Lenard claimed these stories were false.
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, Lenard was matter-of-fact. Because she could not retain an attorney, she made errors, and would incorrectly re-file to correct those errors. She insists that this was not 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 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!
“What Tennessee is looking for is a breath of fresh air. They are looking for someone who understands what is at stake, and who is not bought and paid for by political insiders including conservative insiders. I am that candidate.”
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.”
Lenard acknowledges that overcoming the odds will require “faith of nails.” As in her vision for her life thus far, she falls upon the example of her mother. “My mother was someone who could have used help in that situation, 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.”
If you believe in the triumph of grassroots conservatism over the entrenched establishment, perhaps Brenda Lenard is the candidate for you. Find out more about her candidacy, including how you can support, at her website: brendalendard.com.
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