Tennessee Rep. Gloria Johnson, who made national headlines earlier this year as one of three lawmakers facing expulsion over protesting for more gun control on the state House floor, announced a longshot bid for the US Senate on Tuesday.
“We need somebody that’s gonna care about Tennessee families and lifting them up and making sure that it’s them that we’re trying to cut costs and not cutting costs for corporations and billionaires. We’ve got to make sure that Tennessee families are earning a good wage, have access to affordable health care, have great schools for their kids, and can live in dignity and be able to retire,” Johnson said during remarks, according to a campaign news release.
Johnson first made national headlines when she and state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson advocated for gun reform measures in late March following a mass shooting that devastated a Nashville school. They all faced expulsion after Republicans in the chamber accused them of “knowingly and intentionally” bringing “disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives” for leading the protest. Jones and Pearson, who are Black, were expelled – but Johnson, who is White, was not, a decision she categorized as racially motivated at the time.
Pearson will serve as a co-chair on the campaign, according to the news release.
Johnson faces long odds in her hopes of unseating Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn in the deep red state of Tennessee, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1990.
Nonetheless, some of Johnson’s campaign video was aimed at Blackburn’s stance on reproductive rights and her voting record on lowering prescription costs.
“Look, I’m 6’3. I’m not afraid to stand up to anyone when it comes to doing what’s right for Tennessee, especially Marsha Blackburn, and that’s why I’m running for Senate,” Johnson said.
Abigail Sigler, a Blackburn campaign spokesperson, said in a statement Tuesday that Johnson is pushing a “divisive, destructive agenda here in Tennessee,” adding that “Tennesseans deserve a United States Senator who is committed to fighting for our conservative values. Senator Blackburn will continue her record of getting things done and fighting for Tennessee families.”
Johnson will first have to win the Democratic primary, where she already has company. Memphis environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw, the Democratic Senate nominee in 2020 who lost to Republican Bill Hagerty, announced in July that she would challenge Blackburn.
This story has been updated with additional details.