In this undated photo, U.S. Senate candidate Brenda Lenard (center) visits a war memorial in Knoxville, Tenn. Lenard, a Tea Party activist, is challenging Sen. Lamar Alexander in the upcoming Republican Party primary. (Photo courtesy of B. Lenard)
Even with the primary months away, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Brenda Lenard has already endured a rough journey.
Lenard, a resident of Knoxville, lost her 6-month-old baby and was the unfortunate subject of fraud allegations in newspaper articles shortly after announcing her intention to run in the 2014 primary for the Republican nomination, she explained. Lenard will run against incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has held the seat since 2003.
“My mother used to always tell us that we could be anything we want to be,” Lenard said. “She told us never to allow our circumstances to keep us from reaching our goals.”
Lenard had to file for bankruptcy shortly after the death of her son, Daniel Christopher, when not long afterward, her ex-husband packed his bags and left.
“I found myself grieving the loss of a child and now having to take care of small children by myself,” she said. “When you lose an infant child, it is one of the most severe tragedies anyone can endure, especially as a woman.”
It took her a while to go through the grieving process, she said, but has advice for parents who lose a child.
“Take your time and grieve the way its most helpful to you,” she said. “Whatever is your most appropriate form of grieving, go through that process. Seek counseling and support. Take a moment and reflect to see how I can use this grief to turn into something positive.”
Born in St. Louis, Mo., Lenard and her five siblings grew up in Atlanta and witnessed the turbulent and abusive relationship between their parents.
Through it all, they learned a valuable lesson, she said.
Lenard said she worked hard, receiving her bachelor’s degree in biblical education and leadership from Beulah Heights Bible University. Eventually, she earned her master’s degree in public administration and political science at Kennesaw State University.
Currently, she is working on her doctorate at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
“Now, I’m poised to be Dr. Brenda Lenard and the next junior senator from Tennessee,” she said. “That’s the story.”
After the loss of her child and relationship, Lenard said she was shocked when an article was published in “The Daily Caller” claiming that she was a convicted felon who had abused the bankruptcy system.
Other publications, including the “The Knoxville News Sentinel” and “Tea Party Nation,” picked up the false s and republished what she has called “lies.”
“Shock would probably be the best word to describe how I felt when I read those articles,” Lenard said.
As it turns out, she said, there is a simple explanation.
“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.”
Lenard said she does not have a victim mentality and doesn’t want to blame the fabricated articles on racism, but she says it is no coincidence that this happened to the first African-American woman who is active in the Tea Party movement to run for the seat.
“Tennesse has never had a black or female United States senator, and some people want to keep it that way,” she said. “But, I’m not going to be silenced, and I’m not going anywhere. I hate to think that people are racist. You hate to believe that. It may or may not have something to do with it.”
Lenard said she has requested the slanderous articles to be retracted but it hasn’t happened.
She also asked for an apology but never received one, something that didn’t surprise her. Regardless, Lenard said she is moving on.
“What we’re trying to focus now on is campaigning and not letting these distractions get us off of our campaign and message,” she said.
Despite the bumpy road, Lenard said she is looking forward to upcoming primary.
“We live in a country where there is equal opportunity,” she said. “You can be anything you want to be. The only person that can stop you is you.”