Expelled Tennessee lawmakers win back state House seats
Reps. Justin Jones (D) and Justin Pearson (D) defeated their special election rivals on Thursday and will fully rejoin the state legislature.
Jones defeated Laura Nelson (R) in the House District 52 race, encompassing much of eastern Nashville. Jones had received about 80% of the vote as of 9 p.m. Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Pearson defeated Jeff Johnston (Indep.) in House District 86 in Memphis, winning about 93% of the vote.
The pair, both of whom are Black, were expelled from the legislature while Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), who is white, was not.
The protest gained national attention after Jones and Pearson were expelled, prompting President Biden to bring the “Tennessee Three” to the White House in late April.
“You’re standing up for our kids, you’re standing up for our communities,” Biden said during the visit. “Nothing is guaranteed about our democracy — every generation has to fight for it.”
Biden described the expulsion votes as “shocking” and “undemocratic.”
Both Jones and Pearson were reinstated by local officials days after their expulsion but still had to win special elections to fully regain their seats.
“The message for all the people in Nashville who decided to expel us: You can’t expel hope. You can’t expel justice,” Pearson said when he was reinstated in April. ”You can’t expel our voice. And you sure can’t expel our fight.”
The Tennessee legislature will enter a special session to discuss gun control legislation later this month. Republicans have a supermajority in the chamber, making the reforms the trio protested for unlikely.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) proposed a gun control measure in the wake of the same mass shooting that would limit access to firearms for those deemed a risk to themselves or others. The House did not entertain it at the time, sparking Lee’s declaration of a special session.