For Tennessee attorney Robin Kimbrough Hayes, the decision to run for U.S. Senate came relatively easy. The way she saw it, it was time for national change, and one of the ways to ensure that happened was to make sure that there were diverse voices at the table.
“There are only three Black United States senators…that’s Tim Scott (R-SC), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). I believe that we need a more diverse voice at the table. For me, I got tired of sitting on the sidelines, and I wanted to get in the work on a national level,” Kimbrough Hayes told ESSENCE. “I wanted to make sure that there was somebody in Washington that represented all interests, that represented the interest of poor people, the uninsured, Black people, people who are afraid of how they’re going to eat their next meal, and people who are afraid of whether their planet is going to be here for tomorrow.”
Although Kimbrough Hayes, who is also an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, has never held public office, she is determined to make a difference, noting that she knows, from personal experience, what it’s like to live with financial insecurity, to not be insured, to have to work multiple jobs just to cover medical expenses, to exist as a Black person in this country with the current racial unrest.
Kimbrough Hayes grew up in a trailer park in Lexington, Kentucky, where her family was the only African American family in the trailer park.
“Some trailer parks are good and some are bad, and I grew up in a bad trailer park,” she quipped. “We moved in there when I was about in the first grade, and I lived there until I was in the 11th grade. That trailer park was a struggle. There were a lot of bad things that happened in the trailer park. On top of what usually goes on in trailer parks, we experienced racism in the trailer park. But through all of that, that trailer park gave me the drive to get an education. My focus was that I could not live in this trailer park for the rest of my life.”
In the end, Kimbrough Hayes’ journey and drive to get out of that situation led her to push her way through school. She eventually went on to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., before getting her law degree from Emory School of Law in Atlanta, Ga. She has served as Assistant Attorney General in Tennessee’s Attorney General Office, as well as Associate General Counsel for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. She then felt the call to ministry and was ordained and began serving her community in that capacity as well, all while remaining active in social issues as a member of the NAACP, Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated, the Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence and more.
Now, that girl from a “bad” trailer park in Kentucky is looking to become a U.S. Senator, facing off against four other Democrats in the August primary to secure the Democratic Party’s nominee in a bid to take over the seat that will be vacated by Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has declined to seek a fourth term.
Some of the key issues that Kimbrough Hayes is looking forward to tackling if she comes out victorious in the primary, and then again in the November elections include healthcare (especially in the light of the current coronavirus pandemic), police brutality and women’s issues.
“I’m looking forward to tackling the issue of health care. That’s important to me because I have been in the boat of struggling with trying to figure out healthcare and how expensive it is. I know people besides myself who have not gone to the doctor, who needed to go to the doctor, because they are too afraid of what is going to happen with their expenses,” Kimbrough explained. “Nobody should have to be afraid to live.”
“These issues have a huge impact on poor people and Black and Brown people, Black and Brown people are at the highest in health disparities. Black and Brown people, my people, we’re the ones who were affected most by COVID-19. I want to make a change in the area,” she added.
She also has dreams of working with Democratic Senators, like Booker and Harris, on passing the Justice in Policing Act.
“I’m going to stand with them. I’m going to say, ‘Kamala and Corey, we’ve got to add some additional teeth to this legislation.’ We have got to require that every municipality has a community oversight board because community oversight boards strengthen relationships between police and citizens. I’m going to say…we’ve got to add a provision in here, that when law enforcement fails to comply with the Justice in Policing Act, they will lose BYRNE and COPS money.”
She also has her eyes set on expanding programming and funding to address and prevent domestic violence and to further support the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.
“This an important issue to me. It’s an important issue for women, and it’s an important issue for Black women. This is my wheelhouse passion, unashamedly passion issue: women’s rights, domestic violence, sexual violence, and reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work for women. And all of these issues have an impact on African American women,” she said.
New leadership is needed, Kimbrough Hayes stressed, to bring about real change. And those leaders should not only be those who are willing to listen but include those who are willing to be accomplices to end the divisiveness that we are currently witnessing in this country.
“I bring the energy, the passion, the skills, the insights, and the fight to speak on these issues, and not only that, to take action. I’m a warrior and I’m a chaplain, and I believe that’s exactly what we need right now in our country. As a chaplain, I speak to issues of grief, suffering, and using those times of our greatest joy,” she said. “Things are going to get better.’ And that’s why I’m running to be the United States Senator here in Tennessee.”