Expelled Tennessee Lawmakers to Seek Return to State House

April 10, 2023

Two former Democratic state lawmakers in Tennessee have stated that they want to be reappointed, then elected back to their seats.

Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both Black, were expelled  on Thursday while a third state lawmaker, Gloria Johnson, who is white, survived the vote against her after the trio—popularly known as the “Tennessee Three”—were accused a week earlier of breaking House rules by calling for gun reform.

Nashville’s Metro Council is likely to reappoint Jones to his seat during a specially called meeting on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Shelby County Commission said in a statement Sunday that it will consider at a meeting Wednesday whether to reappoint Pearson, who is from Memphis, to his seat.

However, in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Pearson said he has “heard that people in the state legislature and in Nashville are actually threatening our Shelby County commissioners to not reappoint me, or they’re going to take away funding that’s in the government’s budget for projects that the mayor and others have asked for.”

Jones had warned last week that Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the Tennessee House, could refuse to seat both him and Pearson if they are reappointed or if they win a special election.

The three lawmakers had called for gun reform on Thursday, just days after a mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville where three 9-year-olds and three adults were murdered.

The lawmakers’ call for stricter gun laws came as the state House is considering looser gun laws, including allowing people to carry rifles and shotguns in public without a permit, and to allow faculty or school staff members to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds with a permit.

Outside the chamber Thursday ahead of Pearson’s expulsion vote, Johnson told a reporter that the reason she survived her motion while Jones was expelled “might have to do with the color of our skin.” Hugging Jones, she vowed, “I will keep fighting for you all. I won’t stop.”

On Friday, Vice President Harris traveled to Nashville where she gave an impassioned speech in support of the Tennessee Three. She joined their call for stricter gun laws, including background checks, red flag laws and restrictions on assault weapons.

“Let’s not fall for the false choice [that] either you’re in favor of the Second Amendment or you want reasonable gun safety laws,” Harris said. “We can and should do both.”

At least one Tennessee RNC member, Oscar Book, has blasted the ousting of Jones and Pearson over calls for action following the Nashville school shooting, saying it was bad for the Republican brand.

“If my job, along with other members of the RNC, is to protect the brand of the Republican Party, this didn’t help,” Book told The New York Times. “You’ve energized young voters against us. Worse than squandering support, you’ve made enemies where we didn’t need them.”

In his own “Meet the Press” interview, Jones said the national response to his and Pearson’s ousting makes clear that the Tennessee house Republicans’ “attack on democracy will not go on unchallenged.”

PHOTO: (L-R) Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, Justin Pearson

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