Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville (D) — a member of the trio dubbed the “Tennessee Three” — announced an official 2024 bid for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
Johnson will be running to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn — a MAGA-enthusiast and the first female Senator elected by Tennessee voters.
“Gloria has dedicated her life to fighting for justice and standing tall for Tennesseans who have been left out, left behind, or left without a voice,” a press release announcing her Senate bid read. “She is challenging Marsha Blackburn because Tennessee deserves a Senator who will fight for working families not special interest donors and D.C. politicians.”
Blackburn’s campaign responded with Republican fearmongering’s Greatest Hits, calling the state lawmaker a “radical socialist” and tying her to the GOP’s favorite boogeywomen – members of “the Squad,” as well as President Joe Biden.
“It’s no surprise that radical socialist Gloria Johnson decided to jump into the race at the urging of liberals in Washington, joining Marquita Bradshaw and others in the race for the Democratic nomination,” Blackburn’s campaign spokesperson Abigail Sigler said. “State Rep. Johnson is as woke as they come, and she would be a puppet for Joe Biden, the Squad, and Chuck Schumer in the Senate.”
Blackburn also released a campaign video, calling the Democrat a “threat to our way of life” in Tennessee. She took advantage of the announcement to ask for donations to her campaign as well.
Johnson, a former schoolteacher, became a national name earlier this year after she participated in a protest against Tennessee’s lax gun laws from the state House floor alongside Reps. Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis. That protest came in the wake of shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville earlier this year, leaving six people — three children and three school staff members — dead.
During the protest, the trio, who later became known as the “Tennessee Three,” joined demonstrators — mostly children and parents holding signs and chanting in the House gallery — from the front of the House chamber. Jones and Pearson also used a bullhorn to join the protest.
In response, Republicans — who control the state House — claimed the lawmakers in question “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.”
Days later, Jones and Pearson — two young Black men — were expelled from the state House. Meanwhile, Johnson survived the Republican-led attempt to oust the trio by one vote. The 61-year-old was quick to claim that the only reason that she wasn’t expelled was because she is white.
House Republican leaders have repeatedly denied that race was a factor in the expulsions of the two Black lawmakers.
Jones and Pearson have since been re-elected, easily winning back their seats in an August special election.
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