‘Tennessee Three’ lawmaker who tried to silence GOP launches bid to oust Republican Sen.

A Tennessee state representative who rose to national prominence after she and two other Democrats locked horns with Republicans in the legislature over gun violence and gun restrictions is running for the U.S. Senate.

Gloria Johnson launched her campaign Tuesday, with hundreds in attendance, at a high school where she teaches special education, and which has been affected by the gun violence that has become a central issue for her and her two colleagues, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson , in the so-called “Tennessee Three.”

Her story became a national talking point earlier this year when Mr. Jones and Pearson were both expelled for supporting a protest in the halls of the state capitol against gun violence and demanding that lawmakers act to curb the widespread availability of firearms. Ms Johnson, the only white member of the party, was spared expulsion by the Republican majority – a decision that prompted allegations of racism.

The episode became an exercise in humiliation for Republicans in the Legislature, who watched their ousted colleagues rush back to office from their respective communities and be reinstated to a hero's welcome from the left. Their stars rose on the national stage, prompting donations as well as an invitation to the White House held in April.

On Tuesday, Ms. Johnson vowed to fight special interests as she applauded her bid to unseat Marsha Blackburn, a Republican who has represented the state in the upper chamber since 2019. Ms. Blackburn is one of his strongest campaigners. culture of the Senate and frequently accuses competitors on the left of nefarious agendas while maintaining a partisan conservative voting record. She has famously bragged about carrying a firearm in her purse, making the fight between Ms. Johnson and the senator even more likely to focus on the issue of Second Amendment rights and gun violence.

“Tennessee's working families need someone to fight for them and not just the billionaires and the corporations and the rich and the well-connected,” Ms. Johnson said Tuesday during a campaign rally.

Her battle to topple Mrs Blackburn will be an uphill battle. If Ms. Johnson wins the Democratic primary, the incumbent senator will still have a cash advantage, to say nothing of Tennessee's traditional status as a Republican stronghold. The state has not voted to send a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the 1990s, and the state's governor has been a Republican since 2011. As a result, Ms. Johnson's campaign, from the start, will struggle with allegations that she draws resources from tribes that alert and election analysts see as more profitable for Democrats as Joe Biden seeks a second term and hopes to maintain or expand his party's control of the Senate.

Ms. Blackburn's campaign issued a canned statement branding her supposed opponent as a far-left radical and naming a list of Republican backbenchers on Tuesday as Ms. Johnson toured the state.

“It's no surprise that radical socialist Gloria Johnson decided to enter the race at the urging of liberals in Washington,” campaign spokeswoman Abigail Sigler said. “Johnson State is as woke as they come and would be a puppet for Joe Biden, the Squad and Chuck Schumer in the Senate.”