Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Democrat who rose to national prominence after surviving a Republican-led impeachment attempt for participating in a gun control rally, has announced she is running for the U.S. Senate in a state that has exclusively elected Republican candidates statewide for nearly two decades.
Johnson, 61, is running for a seat currently held by Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, 71, who is running for re-election.
“Gloria has dedicated her life to fighting for justice and standing up for Tennesseans who have been left out, or left without a voice,” said a press release announcing her Senate candidacy.
In April, days after the school shooting that killed 6 people, Johnson joined fellow Democrats Justin Pearson and Justin Jones as they walked the front of the state House floor with a bullhorn. The trio joined the shouts and chants for gun control legislation from protesters in the public galleries and outside the chamber.
The violation of House protocols quickly drew the ire of Republican lawmakers, who demanded that he be expelled for violating House rules—a punishment that had been used only a handful of times since Reconstruction.
The showdown between Democratic lawmakers and the Republican supermajority captured national attention as many labeled the situation the latest front in the battle for the future of American democracy, while also boosting the political profiles of the group quickly dubbed the “Tennessee Three.”
Pearson and Jones, who are both black, were expelled, while Johnson, who is white, escaped by one vote. Shortly after the impeachment vote, Johnson was quick to note that she likely avoided impeachment because she was white. Republicans denied that race was a factor. Instead, they said some members may have been convinced she was not as disruptive as Jones or Pearson. Both men have been re-elected to their positions.
Blackburn first won the Tennessee Senate seat in 2018, defeating Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen by nearly 11 percentage points.
Blackburn was the first female senator elected by the voters of Tennessee. The race also marked a notable shift to the right in the state's political landscape in a state previously known for electing centrist politicians.
Blackburn launched her Senate campaign touting herself as a “hard-line, conservative from Tennessee” and aligned herself closely with former President Donald Trump. He is currently supporting Trump in the 2024 presidential race.
In the Democratic primary for the Senate seat, Johnson will face community activist and organizer Marquita Bradshaw. Bradshaw won the 2020 Democratic Senate nomination and lost the general election to Republican Bill Hagerty by 27 percentage points.
“It's no surprise that radical socialist Gloria Johnson has decided to enter the race at the urging of liberals in Washington, joining Marquita Bradshaw and others in the race for the Democratic nomination,” said Blackburn campaign spokeswoman Abigail Sigler. . she's as woke as they come and would be a puppet for Joe Biden, the Caucus and Chuck Schumer in the Senate.”