HomeTop StoriesMember of 'Tennessee Three' heads toward 2024 Senate bid

Member of ‘Tennessee Three’ heads toward 2024 Senate bid

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee State Representative Gloria Johnson, the only Democratic member of the so-called “Tennessee Three” to narrowly survive a Republican-led eviction attempt, has set up an exploratory committee as she considers running for the seat held by U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn in 2024.

The 61-year-old Johnson filed exploratory paperwork late last week – a move that usually comes right before a campaign’s official launch. This allows her to start raising money to support efforts like travel and polls without officially becoming a candidate. It is not mandatory to run for political office, but it can boost a candidate’s profile.

“Tennessee has a senator who stands with bullies. I have a reputation for standing up to bullies,” Johnson said in a statement. “I am seriously watching this race and having great conversations with people hungry for better leadership in Washington.”

In ruby ​​red Tennessee, Johnson is expected to have an uphill battle when she goes up against Blackburn. The state has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2006.

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Johnson has long been a vocal critic of Blackburn and other leading Tennessee Republican leaders while in office. However, it wasn’t until this spring that her political career received a national boost after she took part in an anti-gun control protest at the Tennessee Capitol that attracted thousands of protesters and demanded lawmakers crack down on the state’s lax gun laws.

The demonstration came just days after a gunman opened fire at a private Christian school in Nashville, killing three children and three adults. As tensions ran high, Johnson joined fellow Democratic Representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones as they approached the front of the House floor with a megaphone without permission, joining the chants and cries for action from protesters in public. galleries and outside the room.

Republican lawmakers quickly called for their eviction for violating protocol and disrupting House procedures. Pearson and Jones, who are both black, were evicted, while Johnson, who is white, was spared by one vote, though Republicans denied race was a factor. Pearson and Johnson were reinstated on an interim basis and were re-elected to their positions last week.

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All three will join their legislative colleagues later this month for a special session to discuss potential changes to the state’s gun control laws. Republican lawmakers initially declined to do so before adjourning their regular session in April. Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who has pushed for changes to keep guns away from people deemed to pose a threat to harm themselves or others, is calling them back together.

Blackburn’s first Senate race came in 2018, when she defeated Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen by nearly 11 percentage points.

Blackburn’s victory, where she also became Tennessee’s first female U.S. senator, marked a sharp shift to the right in the state’s Republican Party leadership. While former GOP senators from the Volunteer State were known for taking more centrist positions, Blackburn launched her Senate campaign by proclaiming that she was a “hardcore, card-carrying conservative from Tennessee” and closely aligned herself with former President Donald Trump.

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In 2021, she vowed to oppose the Electoral College results that confirmed President Joe Biden’s victory, but later backed down after watching the January 6 riot unfold from the Capitol.

Along with Johnson, Democratic community activist and organizer Marquita Bradshaw has also announced plans to run for Blackburn’s seat. Bradshaw won the 2020 Democratic Senate nomination, but later lost to Republican U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty in the general election by 27 percentage points.

“At the urging of liberals in Washington, Gloria Johnson has taken another critical step to join liberal Democrat Marquita Bradshaw in the Tennessee Senate Democratic Primary,” said Abigail Sigler, Blackburn’s campaign spokesperson. “Both are radical socialists who join Joe Biden’s failed policies that make life harder for Tennessee residents every day.”

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