Democratic state Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were expelled from the Tennessee legislature for protesting for gun control in April, were reelected to their seats in landslide victories on Thursday.
Jones and Pearson brought national scrutiny to Nashville in the wake of a school shooting in March, when they and fellow Democrat Gloria Johnson joined thousands of pro–gun control protesters in the Capitol building. Republicans voted to expel Jones and Pearson, both Black men, for allegedly violating chamber rules, but they fell one vote short of expelling Johnson, a white woman. Jones and Pearson were unanimously reinstated by their district councils until a special election could be held.
The two men swept handily to victory in that special election on Thursday. Jones defeated his Republican opponent with nearly 80 percent of the vote, while Pearson took home more than 90 percent of the votes in his district.
“Today is a landslide victory by the people, for the people, and in a community with the people,” Jones told The Tennessean in a statement. “Republicans tried to expel our democracy and then tried to buy it, but the voters of District 52 sent a message to extremist Republicans: we will not be silenced.”
Pearson told supporters Thursday that they had sent a “crystal clear” message to the state Republican Party: “You can’t expel a movement. You can’t expel hope.”