Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, a gun safety advocate who has become known as one of the so-called “Tennessee Three,” has announced that she is running for the US Senate against Republican incumbent Marsha Blackburn.
The Tennessee state representative started her campaign Tuesday near Central High School in Knoxville, where she worked as a special education teacher a survivor of a shooting in 2008 A student died in the process. Johnson is expected to appear in Nashville and Memphis later in the day.
“I’m sick of families in Tennessee being betrayed again and again by those who represent them,” Johnson said at the event, referring to the recent special session of the state legislature that ended last week with no gun control resolution.
Johnson was one of three Tennessee Democrats who gained national attention in March after joining gun safety protesters in the House of Representatives in response to the mass shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville. Three children and three adults were shot dead at Covenant School, prompting uproar over the state’s gun laws.
Newly minted Democratic state representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, both black, were kicked out of the House by the predominantly white GOP faction in April before being reinstated and reclaiming their seats in a special election last month. Johnson narrowly avoided deportation, saying she was spared because she was white.
Pearson is co-chair of Johnson’s campaign, which has a strong focus on gun reform and abortion rights.
“I know that fighting for justice comes at a price. I learned that firsthand as a little girl when I had to sleep in the hallway instead of my bedroom to avoid being shot because my dad had the guts to take the KKK to court,” Johnson said in her campaign announcement video. Her father was an FBI special agent who helped investigate the Klan’s activities in the Deep South.
She added that other politicians “don’t particularly like me for speaking my mind.” And if it’s bullshit, I call it bullshit.”
Johnson has endured a political rollercoaster ride after being elected to the House of Representatives in 2012. She lost re-election in 2014, only to retake her seat four years later. She then won her re-election in 2020, but faced new district lines in Congress being redrawn by her GOP peers. The legislator moved and won in her new district last year.
The candidate told Knox news that she had planned to run for the US Senate before becoming one of the Tennessee Three. The state has not had a Democrat in the Senate since 1995.
Blackburn’s campaign published an opinion In response to Johnson’s announcement, he called her a “radical socialist” who entered the race “at the urging of liberals in Washington.”
“Rep. Johnson is as bright as she can be and she would be a puppet for Joe Biden, the squad and…” [Senate Majority Leader] “Chuck Schumer in the Senate,” Blackburn campaign spokeswoman Abigail Sigler said.
“While Senator Blackburn works hard to resist Biden’s awakened agenda, here in Tennessee, Rep. Johnson is pushing this divisive, destructive agenda,” Sigler added. “Woke,” a term originally used to describe people aware of social injustices, has become a catchphrase that conservatives have adopted to belittle their opponents.
In her campaign video, Johnson addressed Blackburn’s support for a federal ban on abortion and her vote against lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
“We deserve health care and prescriptions that don’t make us broke. We deserve the freedom to make our own choices with our bodies,” the Democrat said. “And most importantly, we deserve a leader who has the courage to stand up to extremists and billionaires who have taken over our system. That person isn’t Marsha Blackburn, but I am.”