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Keeda Haynes Wants To Give A Voice To Her Community

Keeda Haynes, a public defender from Tennessee, is one of the Democrats challenging incumbent Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who has been in office since 2003. And, as Haynes puts it, just as we are currently experiencing a shift in this country, and a shift in the conversations we’re having (particularly in light of the current racial tensions), we are also experiencing a shift in who we believe should be leading this country.

“I think that we deserve somebody who is going to be an actual leader, somebody who is going to show up early and not somebody who is going to just join the party once everybody else starts talking about it,” Haynes says to ESSENCE. “I think we’ve got to have somebody that is passionate about the issues that we are facing in our community and somebody that is going to stand up for the community.”

And that pretty much sums up why Haynes decided to run for office. She says in her experience, just talking to people in her community, many felt like there was not a voice representing them in the nation’s capital. As someone who personally knows “what it is like to be locked out, to be left behind, and to be silenced by a government that is supposed to actually work for you,” Haynes explains that she is here to step in.

“My inspiration is my community, and just recognizing that there was no one that was speaking on our behalf for us in Washington,” Haynes says. “[I want] to make sure…that I am standing beside members in the community and that I am amplifying their voices and that we are speaking as one.” Haynes, 42, will face off against Cooper and another Democrat, Joshua Rawlings, 27 in the August 6 primary elections in Tennessee.

If elected, Haynes has her eye on many big issues, particularly reforming the criminal justice system, which has impacted her in several ways, not only as a public defender serving a community that has one of the highest incarceration rates but also on a personal level.

One of the first issues she hopes to tackle is repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws, something with which she is intimately acquainted.

Haynes herself served nearly four years in prison for a crime she says she didn’t commit while she was enrolled at Tennessee State University. She accepted a FedEx package for her boyfriend which ended up having a sizeable amount of marijuana and she was arrested. The case went to trial, and although Haynes was partially acquitted, she ended up being sentenced to prison time due to the quantity of marijuana.

After getting out of prison, she would go on to graduate from law school and become what she is today.


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