There’s a new voice vying to represent Nashville in Congress. It’s a Black, Republican voice, and it’s getting louder.
Republican businessman Quincy McKnight announced his candidacy for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District on Thursday afternoon, challenging longtime incumbent Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper. If elected, McKnight would be the first Black man to represent Tennessee’s 5th District in Congress.
“Today is not only a dream: it is a dream that will become reality as we launched our campaign for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional seat,” McKnight said. “Today we empower the state of Tennessee. Today, we march to Washington.”
It will be a tough dream to realize, but McKnight is no stranger to a challenge.
McKnight grew up in the foster system, and saw his adoptive father off to fight in the Korean war. An entrepreneur, McKnight founded a company to host an online payment processing company that processes millions each year. His core issues are education, caring for veterans and rebuilding a strong economy.
Throughout his life, McKnight has pulled himself up by the bootstraps. That’s the American dream, he says: opportunity for all, no matter where you came from. Now, he’s running to make sure every kid that looks like him has the same or better opportunities than he had.
“We need not to let children be handicapped by zip code,” McKnight said. “As your Congressman, I’ll make sure that we have great schools in all our areas, but if that doesn’t happen, I will support a parent’s decision to send their child to a school where they can learn, grow and be a productive citizen.”
As a Democratic stronghold, McKnight faces a steep, uphill climb. The last Republican to represent Nashville was Rep. Horace Harrison, who left office in 1875. Though Cooper perennially faces challenges from Republican opponents, a challenger from the GOP has not captured more than 42% of the vote since Cooper has been in office.
McKnight says that doesn’t discourage him.
“I wouldn’t be running if I wasn’t confident,” McKnight told Main Street Nashville in an interview. “There are a lot of good people in this city that have asked for something different. Right now, we’ve been getting nothing but the same old results, especially in the African American community.”
So far, McKnight has earned the endorsements of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, and former Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones — a democrat who changed parties in 2021 after endorsing Donald Trump for re-election and speaking at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
So far, though it’s early yet, no other Republicans have announced their candidacy to challenge Cooper. But the general election is already heating up.
Last month, local justice advocate Odessa Kelly announced a primary challenge for Cooper’s seat in Congress. Kelly gained the endorsement of the Justice Democrats — the organization that helped elect progressive candidates such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib in 2018, and Rep. Cori Bush in 2020. Kelly has been hailed by national media as the first “major progressive challenger” of 2022.
Kelly, who McKnight could face should she beat Cooper in the primary race, raised $100,000 during her first week in the race, according to her campaign.
McKnight’s campaign seems well funded, though campaign finance disclosures will not be filed until July. The announcement event was hosted outside of Fable Artisanal Cocktail Lounge near Centennial Park, and featured live music and a staffed photo booth. Campaign merchandise and glossy literature were distributed to attendees.
“We’re in a very good position,” McKnight told Main Street Nashville, on fundraising efforts.
Democratic incumbent Cooper has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003.