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Liberal group backs primary challenger to Rep. Cooper in Tennessee

Liberal group backs primary challenger to Rep. Cooper in Tennessee
© Greg Nash

The liberal group Democracy for America (DFA) on Wednesday endorsed former public defender Keeda Haynes’s (D) primary challenge against Rep. Jim CooperJim CooperSpokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome House Democrat to DeJoy: 'Is your backup plan to be pardoned like Roger Stone?' House Democrats call on State Department for information on Uighur prisoner Ekpar Asat MORE (D-Tenn.) in the race to represent Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District.

Haynes, who is currently a legal adviser for a nonprofit group that supports incarcerated women, served five years in the federal prison system. 

She is running on a platform that supports progressive touchstones, such as "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal.

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“Keeda Haynes gives Democrats in Tennessee’s 5th District the chance to replace the wildly out-of-step, Republican-lite Democrat who currently represents them, with a bold, visionary leader who is committed to their progressive values and will bring a range of life experience that is desperately needed in the halls of Congress," said DFA CEO Yvette Simpson. "We’re honored to stand with Keeda Haynes in this primary and we look forward to fighting alongside her all the way through November.”

Haynes has a degree in criminal justice from Tennessee State University and following her release from prison, she graduated from law school and became an assistant public defender in the Metro Nashville Public Defender’s office.

Haynes was charged as part of a federal investigation into a drug distribution ring. She says that as a teenager studying criminal justice at Tennessee State University, she agreed to accept packages at her home for her boyfriend’s family business, not realizing he was trafficking drugs.

Haynes has spoken at length about how she says the government harassed and threatened her to accept a plea deal and came down hard on her for seeking a jury trial. Her parents dropped her off at prison shortly after she graduated from college.

“Keeda Haynes is a passionate advocate for criminal justice reform because she’s experienced our broken system as both a public defender and as someone who was sentenced to seven in federal prison for a crime she did not commit," Simpson said.

Cooper, who is seeking his 16th term in office, serves on the Armed Services, Budget, and Oversight and Reform committees.

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He has raised about $600,000 this cycle and has about $350,000 in the bank. Haynes has only raised about $15,000.

Tennessee’s 5th District is solidly blue and has not been represented by a Republican since 1875.

Cooper did not face a primary challenge in 2018 but he has pulled several challengers this time around for the Aug. 6 primary.

In addition to Haynes, Cooper will face small business owner Joshua Rawlings and liberal activist Justin Jones.