From USA Today: Four months after an expulsion vote thrust the pair into the national spotlight, Democratic state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pear
From USA Today: Four months after an expulsion vote thrust the pair into the national spotlight, Democratic state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson formally won reelection Thursday to their seats in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Republicans voted to oust Jones and Pearson from the legislature in April after they interrupted House proceedings with a gun-control protest. But the two were quickly reappointed to the seats until this summer’s special elections.
In Nashville, Jones defeated Republican opponent Laura Nelson with nearly 80% of the vote for the House District 52 seat. In Memphis, Pearson defeated Republican Jeff Johnston with more than 90% of the vote for the House District 86 seat.
“Well, Mr. Speaker, the People have spoken,” Jones wrote in a tweet just after 9 p.m. “The FIND OUT era of politics is just beginning. See you August 21st for special session.”
Jones was first elected to represent District 52 last November. Pearson was elected to the District 86 seat in a special election primary in January. Shelby County Commissioners then appointed him, allowing him to be sworn in before the general election in March, in which he had no opponents.
Days after the deadly shooting at Covenant School left six dead, including three 9-year-old children, in Nashville, Jones used a bullhorn at the chamber podium to rally crowds in the galleries, calling for the chamber to take action to prevent more gun deaths. He was joined by Pearson and Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville.
Members of the Republican supermajority saw the interruption as a violation of House decorum rules, and filed resolutions of expulsion against all three members. They fell one vote short of expelling Johnson, but Jones and Pearson were expelled.
Almost immediately, county legislative bodies appointed Jones and Pearson back to represent their districts in an interim capacity, until the special primary elections in June and the general election on Thursday.
Pearson also formally won back his seat in District 86 on Thursday. At his watch party in Memphis, Pearson thanked his supporters, including his family and volunteers.
“The statement we’re making to the Republican party in Nashville is crystal clear: You can’t expel a movement,” Pearson said. “You can’t expel hope. For these movements live in the people in this district, people who refused to be silenced and shackled and told to be quiet and be in the back.”
The expulsion votes drew national media attention to Nashville, giving Tennessee Democrats a platform not seen in years, and offering a significant fundraising opportunity. Jones and Pearson received nearly $2 million in campaign contributions during the week they were expelled and even earned an invitation to the White House.
Among the youngest Black lawmakers in Tennessee, Pearson first came to prominence in Memphis when he co-founded the grassroots organization Memphis Community Against the Pipeline in response to a planned crude oil pipeline that would cut through backyards in South Memphis, particularly in the Boxtown neighborhood.
Jones has long been an activist at the state Capitol, calling for reforms to Tennessee’s voting laws, Medicaid expansion, and removal of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest which previously was displayed in a prominent location on the second floor of the building. He also led the “People’s Plaza” protests on War Memorial Plaza during the summer of 2020.