Two Tennessee Democrats who were kicked out of the state’s GOP-controlled House of Representatives over a gun control protest – only to be temporarily reinstated days later – regained their seats in Parliament Thursday night.
State Assemblyman Justin Jones defeated Republican candidate Laura Nelson and State Assemblyman Justin Pearson defeated independent candidate Jeff Johnston.
The two first-time lawmakers were ousted from office in April after joining protesters calling for stricter gun controls after a shooting at a Nashville school that killed three children and three adults.
Hundreds of protesters – including many children – gathered in the House of Representatives on March 30 to join Pearson, Jones and another Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson, in demanding an end to gun violence. The resolutions introduced by House Republicans to expel the three members claimed that the trio “knowingly and intentionally brought disorder and shame to the House of Representatives.”
Pearson and Jones, who are black, were both ousted. Johnson, who is white, was spared.
During his disqualification hearing, Jones defended his actions.
“I ran on behalf of these young people … many of whom cannot even vote, many of whom have the right to vote, but all fear the ongoing trend of mass shootings that plague our state and this nation.” said Jonesrepresenting a district in Nashville.
“We have all called on you to ban offensive weapons and you are responding by attacking democracy,” he added.
The Republicans’ ploy in the House of Representatives quickly backfired. Just days after Jones’ expulsion, the Nashville Metropolitan Council voted 36-0 to reinstate him provisionally. Two days later, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted 7-0 to temporarily reinstate Pearson as well.
“You can’t shut out our vote, and you certainly can’t shut out our fight,” Pearson told a crowd of supporters after his reinstatement.
Adding to the humiliation of Republicans in the House of Representatives, Pearson and Jones combined raised a total of more than 2 million dollars by some 70,400 campaign donations from across the country after their expulsions were reported in the media.
In comparison, Nelson raised more than $34,000 for her race against Jones. Johnston raised less than $400 in his competition with Pearson.