Expelled Tennessee state representatives reclaim seats after winning special election

Democrats were expelled from state legislature following gun violence protest

Tennessee state representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones outside the White House. AP
Powered by automated translation

Two Democratic politicians who were expelled from the Tennessee legislature earlier this year after angering the Republican majority with a protest against gun violence have won a special election to serve out the remainder of their terms.

Justin Pearson and Justin Jones both beat Republican challengers to reclaim their seats on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Republicans in the state's House of Representatives voted in April to expel the two men for breaking rules of decorum by leading a protest inside the chamber.

The expulsions drew nationwide attention to their protest, which came after a gunman killed three children and three adults in an attack at a school in Nashville, the state capital.

A third Democrat, Gloria Johnson, joined the protest but narrowly escaped expulsion.

Within a few days, local officials in Mr Pearson's and Mr Jones's districts voted to return them to their seats under a provision in the state's constitution that lets district-level officials fill legislative vacancies until a special election can be held.

Mr Pearson, 28, represents a district in Memphis. Mr Jones, 27, represents a district in Nashville. Both men won their primary elections in June with more than 90 per cent of the votes and both are in districts that heavily favour the Democratic Party.

Demonstrators demand gun safety action at Tennessee statehouse

Demonstrators demand gun safety action at Tennessee statehouse

Mr Pearson was running against Jeff Johnston, an independent, and Mr Jones was running against Republican Laura Nelson.

Republicans who expelled the two men said their conduct disrupted the work of the House and that it was a severe breach of decorum rules.

Democrats, including President Joe Biden, who hosted the two men and Ms Johnson at the White House in April, said the expulsion was undemocratic and disempowered their constituents in Tennessee's two largest cities.

Updated: August 04, 2023, 6:02 PM