U.S. Senate candidate Brenda Lenard said Wednesday that she has been urged to leave the race and endorse another of incumbent Sen. Bob Corker’s opponents in the Republican primary because of a bad check conviction and bankruptcies in her background.
Lenard, a Tea Party activist and single mother working on a doctorate in political science at the University of Tennessee, said she will “absolutely not” do so and believes that her life experiences – including the 1990s financial problems – make her a better person and a better candidate.
“There is not one thing in my past or even now that I’m ashamed of,” said Lenard, 45, of Sweetwater. “Life is tough and sometimes you have to roll with the punches.”
InvestigativeCheck, a Washington-based firm that conducts research for corporate and political clients, turned up the information on Lenard when running background checks on all U.S. Senate candidates, according to company CEO Jim Popkin.
The review also showed a bankruptcy in the background of Larry Crim, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. Through a spokesman, Crim said the bankruptcy is one of the factors in his decision to run for the Senate.
In an interview, Lenard said as “a young entrepreneur” she received a substantial check from a customer in 1993, took it to the bank and then wrote checks to pay her bills on the assumption the deposited check was good. It was not and when the deposited check bounced, so did the checks she wrote.
Lenard said she wound up going before a judge, without an attorney, entering a plea and paying a $250 fine. She was also placed on probation for a year.
Popkin said federal records show Lenard filed for bankruptcy four times from 2003 to 2005. The last time, the chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Atlanta called Lenard’s filing “abusive” and “an intent by debtor to improperly hinder and delay creditors.”
Lenard said she actually was trying to file for bankruptcy on her own, without an attorney, and repeatedly filled out the forms incorrectly. On each occasion, she said the improperly-done filing was rejected and the judge eventually wrote the critical note.
“I filed it myself and I was simply trying to correct the errors,” she said, adding that the episode occurred as she was emotionally distraught the over recent death of her 6-month-old son.
“I don’t play the victim game game and I don’t play woe is me,” Lenard said. “When you are poor and trying to break out of the cycle of poverty and you’re not privileged – using that word loosely – you don’t always make the right decisions. But you learn.”
In both cases, Lenard said that if she had an attorney, which she felt she could not afford at the time, the outcome would have been different.
Lenard is one of four Republicans challenging Corker in the Aug. 2 primary. She has raised about $58,346, more than any other aspiring Corker challenger of either party, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Corker has raised more than $12.5 million.
Todd Womack, Corker’s chief of staff, said he was aware of reports about Lenard’s past but he and the senator did not wish to comment on them.
Besides Corker and Lenard, Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate nomination are Mark Twain Clemens of Rockvale, Zach Poskevich of Hendersonville and Fred R. Anderson of Maryville.
Another Republican, James Durkan of Chattanooga, actively campaigned for some months, but never filed papers to qualify as a candidate, according Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office.
Nonetheless, U.S. Term Limits, an organization promoting term limits for members of Congress, sent out a news release praising Durkan for promising to support a constitutional amendment on term limits if elected.
Federal Election Commission records show Durkan filed a campaign finance report on April 9, four days after he missed the deadline for qualifying as a candidate. The report showed he received only $150 in contributions for the period Jan. 1-March 31 and had a cash-on-hand balance of $544, though he had earlier loaned his campaign $5,743. When contacted earlier by the News Sentinel about his failure to qualify, Durkan declined comment.
Lenard said said she has been asked by others about her past problems, including those who urged her to step aside and endorse Poskevich, whose website indicates that he is maintaining an active campaign schedule and who also portrays himself as more conservative than Corker.
Lenard has characterized Corker as “big government Bob” and says the incumbent was wrong in votes to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, backing “bailouts” and other issues. But the candidate said she was “not going to be nasty the way my opponents have been toward me.”
“The thing about going through these difficult challenges is that it prepared you for things down the road,” she said.
Corker’s huge financial advantage and the fact that he is facing three candidates to split voters who may oppose his re-election is widely seen as making him invulnerable.
Lenard, who said she moved to Tennessee in 2008 and hopes to receive her UT doctorate in political science next year, acknowledged underdog status, but added, “This election cycle things strange things and stranger things are happening.”
Crim, a Nashville businessman who has been active in Democratic causes, is one of seven Democratic candidates seeking the party nomination to run against Corker. His campaign spokesman, Roy Dale, said in an email that events leading up to Crime’s bankruptcy were “one of the primary reasons that Larry decided to run for the Senate.”
“A few years ago, Larry applied for and was granted a development loan that was to be funded in increments. He was given the first draw only to be refused the final approved draws. The bank officer that approved the loan was no longer at the bank and the bank claimed they had the ability to discontinue the funding at any time,” Dale said. “Eventually, the lack of committed funding caused a failure of the development and a forced personal bankruptcy. During the bankruptcy proceedings,the bank was required to pay a penalty in settlement, but it was too late for Mr. Crim.”
Dale said Crim “was the victim of what many would consider predatory lending” and inspired to oppose “bank bailouts that have occurred with little to no help for the average citizen.” If elected, he said, Crim “will do all that he can to propose laws and legislation that will protect the citizens and regulate banking.”
Other Democrats qualifying as candidates are Mark E. Clayton of Whites Creek, Shaun E. Crowell of Spring Hill, Gary Gene Davis of Nashville, Dave Hancock of Maryville, Park Overall of Afton, T.K. Owens of Jonesborough and Benjamin Roberts of Jasper.
Other Democrats qualifying as candidates are Mark E. Clayton, Shaun E. Crowell, Gary Gene Davis, Dave Hancock, Park Overall, T.K. Owens and Benjamin Roberts.
Overall, an actress and environmental activist, is apparently the best known as star in the NBC television series “Empty Nest.” She was the last to file qualifying papers and has not had to file a campaign disclosure yet. Of those who have filed, Crim is the leading Democrat in fundraising with $6,200.
Note: This also appears in the News Sentinel, HERE.