Keeda Haynes is campaigning for the Democratic nomination to run for Tennessee’s 5th District seat in Congress. Courtesy photo.

By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — An attorney campaigning for Tennessee’s 5th District seat in Congress says she’ll use her experience and skills in Washington to advocate for people.

“I am someone that advocated passionately on behalf of my clients, working as a public defender” for more than six years in Davidson County courtrooms, said Keeda Haynes.

“I refused to settle for anything other than a just outcome for them,” Haynes told The Tennessee Tribune when summing up a telephone interview last week. “I will take that same passion and determination to Washington on behalf of the community here in this district because I think it is time for us to have someone who is going to restore the power back to our community and someone who is going to really fulfill the purpose of ‘We, the people.’”

If elected, she’d be the first Black woman from Tennessee to be a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Haynes is one of three candidates for the Democratic nomination to run for Congress here. The primary is Aug. 6. There’s no candidate for the Republican nomination to run in the general election. The winner of the Democratic primary will face an independent candidate Nov. 3. Early voting in the primary ends at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Born in 1978, Haynes graduated from Franklin High School in 1996. After a semester at Nashville State Community College, she transferred to Tennessee State University, graduating with a degree in criminal justice and psychology. Her law degree is from the Nashville School of Law, but before law school, she gained hard-earned experience in law and a personal understanding of what defendants experience. It’s a story reported by Essence magazine, Black Enterprise, CNN and other media. She explains it as making her suitable for the job; knowing what residents here suffer.

Two weeks after graduating from TSU, she says in a campaign website video, “I had to call my boss, that had offered me a job as a legal assistant, to tell him I couldn’t take it because I had to go to federal prison.” Haynes said she served three years and 10 months in prison for unwittingly accepting a FedEx package for her boyfriend. The package contained marijuana. She appealed to the U.S. Supreme Co. It returned the case to the trial judge. Mandatory sentencing laws required incarceration. She maintains she’s innocent.

Haynes is passionate about repeal of mandatory sentencing laws. CNN reports she was a public defender for over six years. Subsequently, she became a legal adviser for Free Hearts, a nonprofit focused on social and racial justice for those who are or were incarcerated.

Haynes volunteered time with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, a coalition of organizations, but it consumed too much time when she was a public defender.

Haynes said the incumbent is “no longer a good fit for us.” She would advocate: better funding for public health; reform of sentencing laws; a higher minimum wage; and affordable housing. She’d fight restrictive covenants, red lining and discriminatory lending by banks. “I would advocate that we allocate additional money so HUD can provide grants that would be the equivalent of FHA loans to low and middle income, first-time home buyers that have been impacted by red-lining. There are different things we could be doing when reallocating funds from the military to affordable housing, to education, to criminal justice reform, to things that will allow people to have a better quality of life instead of allowing the military to have this huge budget, and then for every other department to suffer.”

Haynes said the incumbent’s “inaction” is a reason why disparities exist in this district. “He has to take responsibility for that,” she says. “These are not new issues. These issues have been impacting the entire district. For these issues to have been going on for as long as they have, and for our representative to not even be advocating for that, that should be completely unacceptable for anybody that is holding that office.”

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...