Three of six candidates running for three at-large seats on Pulaski’s city board are Black. There are eight African Americans running in five ward races for Columbia’s council.

By Clint Confehr

U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw of Memphis — an environmental justice activist and surprise Democratic nominee — has announced she’s in a tight race with Bill Hagerty, a former U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Meanwhile, three of six candidates running for three at-large seats on Pulaski’s city board are Black. That line-up isn’t surprising where everybody knows the klan started there. If you’re from Pulaski, regardless of race, “They will accept you as one of their own,” explained Andrea Poynter, one of seven African Americans running in five ward races for Columbia City Council.

Originally from Philadelphia, but in Columbian now, is Audrey Turner, who campaigned for Barack Obama nationwide and provided security for his inauguration. “There were a lot [of minorities running for office] in rural areas since Obama won. There are more minorities running now than back then,” Turner said. Columbia has more African American candidates now. “Yes,” she said: they’re inspired by Obama; appalled by police killing Blacks; and “They want change in this country.”

Bradshaw said she and her advocates would be campaigning Oct. 20-24 in Nashville. “We’re targeting people who don’t always vote, swing voters, and every known Democratic voter in the state to make sure they know me and have a plan to vote,” Bradshaw said. She’s “on track to make 3 million voter-contacts before Election Day.”

Bradshaw’s ‘stealth campaign’ was across several internet platforms. She is the first Black woman nominated to run for Senate by a major party in Tennessee. Political pundits note that she beat James Mackler who campaigned longer and raised much more money. Hagerty and his GOP primary opponent spent a great deal of money on campaigns. Hagerty isn’t spending much now on TV ads, an indication that Bradshaw isn’t seen as a threat, Nashville Civil Rights activist Walter Searcy said.

Pulaski candidates run at-large to win a plurality. They are: John Amlancer, salesman, justice advocate; community volunteer Zacchaeus Garrett; incumbents Ricky Keith and Randy Massey; write-in candidate Janice Tucker; and Giles County Commissioner Larry Worsham who says he can serve on both panels. Incumbent Vicky Harwell isn’t running for re-election. Garrett, Tucker and Massey are Black.

Giles County’s NAACP held a candidates forum Monday. Stormwater flooding, a big part of the Clean Water Act, is seen by all candidates as problem in the north part of town. They all endorse help for previously incarcerated people. Candidate solutions to the coronavirus pandemic include prayer and personal responsibility. They all want Pulaski prepared, if and when the University of Tennessee acquires Martin Methodist College. Garrett declined to state his opinion on Confederate images in Pulaski. Tucker: “They ought to be where people can see them,” understand and remember. Amlancer: removing Sam Davis’ statue is a slippery slope. Worsham prefers Confederate icons be displayed in a museum, but that’s expensive. “Whatever it takes,” Worsham said, “let’s get along.” Massey and Keith were absent.

Columbia’s 1-5 Ward races include: two Blacks, DaVena Hardison challenging Carl McCullen, an African American who’s served Ward 1 for years; Ward 2 incumbent Ken Wiles and Ward 3 incumbent Anthony Greene, an African-American, are unopposed; Ward 4 has three candidates running for an open seat and they are County Commissioner Eric Previti, cyclist and General Machine Works proprietor Kenny Marshall, and Andrea Poynter who taught nursing at TSU, now at Columbia State Community College, and just submitted her dissertation to be a full professor; Ward 5 has four candidates named on the ballot, including two Blacks, Tim Thomas and Jeremiah Wright, who also face former county GOP chair Adam Runyan and Columbia Arts Council member Danny Coleman. Meanwhile, Brandon Sprowl is waging a write-in campaign for the Ward 5 seat in Columbia. His grandmother and great grandmother attended the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church in Montgomery, Ala. That listing shows seven of 12 candidates are Black.

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...