Tennessee Democrat reprimanded for gun violence protest running for Senate | #schoolsaftey

Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson, one of the three Democrats reprimanded earlier this year for leading a protest against gun violence on the state House floor, has launched a bid for Senate in her deep-red home state.

Johnson made the announcement during a speech outside a Knoxville school, evoking a 2008 school shooting there while she was a teacher there to argue that “nothing has been done” since.

“We’ve got to do better, we can do better and Tennesseans deserve better. We have got to do something, and well, This is the something I decided to do,” Johnson said about her Senate bid.

She went onto criticize Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, whom Johnson hopes to face if she can win a primary election next year, accusing her of standing in the way of progress.

“We need to make sure that every family has access to affordable health care, every kid has a great school in every district, it shouldn’t matter where you live, everyone should have a great school. We need to raise wages so people earn a living wage and we need to increase our union involvement because that’s what built the middle class,” she added.

Johnson gained prominence in the state after she and two other colleagues took to the the state House floor with a bullhorn to criticize what they perceived as legislative inaction after a March mass shooting in Nashville. Republicans blasted the three for their use of the bullhorn and for speaking when not formally recognized — one top Republican compared the protest to an attempted “insurrection” — leading to votes to expel the three lawmakers.

While the House successfully voted to expel the two other state lawmakers who joined Johnson, she was not kicked out of the body. Johnson is white, while the two lawmakers who were expelled are Black, leading the Democratic lawmakers and other critics of the GOP’s actions to question whether the lawmakers were treated differently because of their race.

Republicans have denied those charges, pointing to the fact Johnson survived expulsion by just one vote and arguing the fates of the three lawmakers differed because of their differing conduct during the protest.

Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, seated in white suit, Rep. Justin Pearson, standing top left, D-Memphis, and Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, huddle on the floor of the House chamber in Nashville on April 6.George Walker IV / AP

The two other lawmakers, state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, won their seats back in special elections last month. Jones was again reprimanded last week for violating new House rules meant to discourage lawmakers from discussing unrelated topics.

Johnson will be joined by Pearson and Jones as she announces her campaign in events across the state Tuesday, according to a press release.

The saga raised Johnson’s profile among Democrats across the country, and it gives her a jolt of momentum as she embarks on a difficult task: dethroning Blackburn in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic senator in more than three decades, since before then-Sen. Al Gore resigned his seat to serve as vice president in 1993.

Blackburn won her first term in the Senate in 2018 by more than 10 points over former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who Democrats wooed into the race in the hope that he was practically the only candidate with the experience and resume to keep the state competitive. Since then, then-President Donald Trump won the state’s 2020 presidential election by about 23 percentage points, and incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Lee won his re-election in 2022 by 32 percentage points.

In a statement reacting to Johnson’s bid, Blackburn campaign spokesperson Abigail Sigler blasted Johnson as a “radical socialist” who is “as woke as they come.”

“While Senator Blackburn is working hard to fight back against Biden’s woke agenda, state Rep. Johnson is pushing that divisive, destructive agenda here in Tennessee,” Sigler said.

“Tennesseans deserve a United States senator who is committed to fighting for our conservative values. Senator Blackburn will continue her record of getting things done and fighting for Tennessee families,” she continued.

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