Keeda Haynes is a former Nashville public defender who was previously convicted for felony marijuana charges. But now she’s a Congressional candidate.

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“I never envisioned myself in politics,” Haynes told The Huffington Post. “It wasn’t my plan for my life, but neither was going to prison, so here we are.”

The 42-year-old was 19 when she unknowingly accepted a package for a man that she knew that contained marijuana. Due to the mandatory minimums, she was sentenced to seven years, then her sentence was reduced to five years after an appeal.


Haynes graduated from college shortly before she served almost four years, and studied for the LSAT during her stint.

She went on to graduate from the Nashville School of Law and gained the support of long-time progressive candidates and organizations for her campaign to represent the state of Tennessee in the House of Representatives. 

The district Haynes is running for never had a Black congressperson, and the entire state of Tennessee hasn’t sent a Black person to Congress since the 1990s. “One of the reasons I’m running is because it’s time to center the voices of underserved communities, particularly now, as the country is talking about systemic racism,” Haynes told Shondaland. “If we’re going to dismantle those systems, we have to have people close to the problems working to ensure that Black people are able to experience the freedom and the healing we’re calling for.”

Keeda Haynes is up against Representative Jim Cooper, whose family has a long, notable history in politics and he represented Tennessee’s fifth district for over 15 years.

But Haynes’ campaign is being compared to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s successful 2018 campaign against 10-term incumbent Democratic stalwart, Joe Crowley.