Choosing not to concede the race for U.S. Senate, Marquita Bradshaw told supporters, "My name is Marquita Bradshaw, and I will be your next United States senator.” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Campaign workers and supporters cheered Marquita Bradshaw as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate addressed them for what many thought would be a concession speech. But she had not come to the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Memphis for that.

She arrived with campaign manager Ken Turner and other close advisors. The race had been called at 9:35 p.m. for Republican opponent Bill Hagerty with 69.1 percent of the vote.

Her speech was more defiant and disappointed, rather than hopeful and optimistic like the night before at a “Get Out To Vote” rally.  She addressed her supporters, but there was no concession.

“In true South Memphis style, we fight for everything we get. So, this is not a concession speech,” said Bradshaw. “It is on the principle of democracy that we will fight until every last vote is counted.”

Bradshaw was endorsed by such Democrat heavyweights as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg — all former candidates for the Democratic nomination for President. Even that was not enough to give Bradshaw a win in Tennessee’s deeply red voting history.

“I have already made history, and that was not my intention,” Bradshaw continued. She vowed to “fight and go find my votes at the bottom of the basement … because I know the antics that they do.”

“You ready?” she asked radio personality Stan Bell at the DJ table.

“I’m ready,” Bell shouted back. He cranked up the music, and Bradshaw began to dance on stage. Her supporters followed suit.

After a while, she held up one hand, and Bell stopped the music.

“Oh, yeah, we’re going to celebrate. But I want to shout out Ken,” Bradshaw said, as supporters cheered and clapped for campaign manager Turner.

“Ken understood the vision of this 95-county strategy, so he knows what kind of work we put in. He knows what those numbers are supposed to look like,” Bradshaw said.

What did look like a conventional, gracious concession were the generous expressions of gratitude to volunteers and supporters.

“I want to thank every volunteer for every minute you gave to the campaign. It’s worth something. For every dollar you gave, and you were making less than minimum wage because you were a server, it meant something,” Bradshaw said.

Her comments ended with a ringing note that was anything but concession.

“So, no. You cannot call the race. You don’t have the authority…Hagerty is not my U.S. Senator. And we will count every last vote. My name is Marquita Bradshaw, and I will be your next United States senator.”

Bradshaw did garner 35.3 percent of the vote. The actual numbers were: Hagerty: 214,142; Bradshaw, 599,288. The rest was distributed among nine independent candidates on the ballot.

Bradshaw is a powerhouse in local movements of community activism, namely, labor, environmental, and social justice work. She is most known for her work with the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, AFL-CIO, The Sierra Club, Stand for Children, Tennessee African-American Environmental Justice Network, and Tennesseans for Fair Taxation.