Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), a member of the “Tennessee Three” who gained national recognition advocating for gun control, announced Tuesday she would launch a bid to unseat Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in 2024.
Johnson made the announcement Tuesday morning while speaking outside the high school where she previously worked as a teacher.
In a statement, Johnson stressed her experience “fighting for justice,” including her 27 years teaching special education and her efforts to lobby for gun safety legislation in the wake of a school shooting in her state that resulted in the deaths of three children and three adults.
“Tennesseans are fed up with corrupt, ‘do nothing’ politicians, like Marsha Blackburn, who has taken millions from the pharmaceutical industry, the NRA and the insurance industry while voting against lowering our drug costs, against bipartisan gun reform, and for denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions,” Johnson said.
“And Tennessee women deserve a Senator who trusts them to make their own medical decisions, unlike Blackburn who called the repeal of Roe v. Wade ‘a blessing’ and has long supported passing a federal abortion ban,” she added.
Johnson, a frequent critic of Blackburn, rose to national recognition after she joined state Reps. Justin Pearson (D) and Justin Jones (D) in walking to the floor of the state House with a bullhorn, chanting in support of gun safety reform. The “Tennessee Three” were joined by members of the public outside the House and in the public galleries.
Republican lawmakers quickly moved to expel the three, but only Pearson and Jones, who are both Black, were expelled. Johnson, who is white, avoided expulsion by one vote. Johnson has said race played a role in the disparate outcomes, which Republicans deny.
Pearson and Jones were reinstated following their expulsion and were reelected to their posts in two separate special elections.
Blackburn, who has launched a reelection bid, quickly responded to Johnson’s announcement with a statement that sought to depict her as a “puppet for [President] Joe Biden.”
“It’s no surprise that radical socialist Gloria Johnson decided to jump into the race at the urging of liberals in Washington, joining Marquita Bradshaw and others in the race for the Democratic nomination,” spokesperson for Blackburn’s campaign Abigail Sigler wrote in a statement.
“State Rep. Johnson is as woke as they come, and she would be a puppet for Joe Biden, the Squad, and Chuck Schumer in the Senate. While Senator Blackburn is working hard to fight back against Biden’s woke agenda, State Rep. Johnson is pushing that divisive, destructive agenda here in Tennessee,” Sigler added.