Stacy M. Brown| NNPA Newswire
The two Democratic state representatives in Tennessee, whom Republicans expelled following gun violence protests, emerged victorious in their primary races for their former seats on Thursday night.
Democratic voters overwhelmingly chose Justin Jones, based in Nashville, and Justin J. Pearson, of Memphis, to retain their positions. While Jones faced no opposition, Pearson went head-to-head with Democratic challenger David Page.
Observers said the resounding primary victories of Jones and Pearson serve as a resolute message to Republicans in the state House, highlighting the unwavering support these individuals enjoy within their districts.
Further, both are expected to inject renewed momentum into the advocacy for comprehensive gun legislation, particularly ahead of an upcoming special session this summer.
The chain of events leading to their expulsion began with a tragic mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville in March, resulting in the loss of six lives, including three 9-year-olds.
Jones, Pearson, and another House legislator, Gloria Johnson, spearheaded a protest on the chamber floor, demanding stricter gun safety regulations.
In an unprecedented move, Republican House legislators voted to expel both Jones and Pearson, who are Black, for their roles in the protests. However, the expulsion vote fell short in the case of Johnson, who is white.
The action sparked accusations of racism, drawing national attention to the racial dynamics within the Tennessee Legislature and garnering support from Democrats in Washington.
Notably, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Nashville shortly after the expulsions to meet with the so-called “Tennessee Three,” commending them for amplifying their constituents’ voices in the fight against gun violence.
President Joe Biden also extended his support, inviting them to the White House and condemning their expulsions as “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent” in a public statement.
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting in Memphis and unanimously decided to reinstate Pearson. Meanwhile, the Nashville Metropolitan Council unanimously voted to reinstate Jones to the legislature.
State law required Jones and Pearson to run for their former seats in primary and general elections. The special general elections for both districts are slated for August 3.
Pearson will face an independent challenger, Jeff Johnston, while Jones will contend against Laura Nelson, a Republican candidate. Given the heavily Democratic nature of both districts, many anticipate that Pearson and Jones will emerge victorious in the general elections.