Tennessee Democrat Who Took Part in Gun Violence Protest Will Run for Senate

Gloria Johnson, a Democratic state representative from Tennessee who narrowly avoided being expelled from the Legislature in April after taking part in a gun control protest on the statehouse floor, announced plans on Tuesday to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican.

Ms. Johnson, 61, received a flood of national attention after she joined two other Democrats, Representatives Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, to interrupt debate on the floor of the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives and rally for stricter gun control measures in late March, just days after a shooting at a Christian school in Nashville that killed six people.

In retribution, Republicans moved to expel the three Democrats — sometimes called the Tennessee Three — from the Legislature. Mr. Jones and Mr. Pearson were both ousted. Ms. Johnson was stripped of her committee assignments but avoided expulsion by just one vote. (Both men were later voted back into their positions.)

Last week, the State Legislature held an emotional and chaotic special session meant to be devoted to public safety that ended without agreement on any significant new restrictions on firearm access.

In a video announcing her Senate campaign, Ms. Johnson led with that issue, playing clips of news coverage of the Nashville shooting and highlighting her involvement in the gun control protest.

“When my friends and I believed mothers and fathers who lost children at Covenant deserved a voice, and we fought for it, they expelled them,” she says in the video.

Ms. Johnson, who represents parts of Knoxville, was first elected to the Tennessee House in 2012, then lost subsequent elections in 2014 and 2016 before again winning in 2018. For the 2024 Senate race, she is running in a contested Democratic primary against Marquita Bradshaw, an environmental justice activist who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2020.

Both hope to unseat Ms. Blackburn, 71, who in 2018 became the first woman elected to represent Tennessee in the Senate.

In her video, Ms. Johnson suggested that Ms. Blackburn was beholden to “extremists and billionaires,” criticizing her views on abortion.

Senator Blackburn’s campaign spokeswoman, Abigail Sigler, accused Ms. Johnson in a statement of being a “radical socialist” who “would be a puppet” for President Biden and progressive Democrats.

Michael Gold is a reporter covering transit and politics in New York. More about Michael Gold

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