Speed Reads

Tennessee Two

2 expelled Tennessee Democrats say they plan to quickly reclaim their seats

When Tennessee state House Republicans voted last Thursday to expel two Democrats over their participation in an "disorderly" protest in the House chamber for stricter gun laws, they may have created two new political celebrities whose ouster will be short-lived. Both lawmakers, Rep. Justin Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson, said Sunday they plan to run in the special elections to fill their old seats. And there's a good chance they will be reappointed to the seats before as soon as this week. 

The Nashville Metropolitan Council will likely reappoint Jones to his old Nashville-area seat during special session on Monday. And the Shelby County Commission said Sunday that they will consider reappointing Pearson to represent Memphis on Wednesday. "What happens next in the Legislature is anybody's guess," Politico reports.

"I've already heard," Pearson told NBC's Meet the Press, "that people in the state Legislature and in Nashville are actually threatening our Shelby County commissioners: Do not reappoint me or they're going to take away funding that's in the governor's budget for projects that the mayor and others have asked for." 

Tennessee House Republicans said they took the very unusual step of expelling Jones and Pearson to avoid setting a precedent where lawmakers can disrupt the House with protests. 

Shelby County Commission Chairman Mickell Lowery said Sunday that he understands that the Legislature wants to respond to lawmakers who "transgressed the rules," but Pearson's expulsion "was conducted in a hasty manner without consideration of other corrective action methods. I also believe that the ramifications for our great state are still yet to be seen."

Pearson, Jones, and the third Democrat in their gun safety protest, Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), suggested that Johnson's expulsion failed by one vote because she is a white woman in her 60s while Pearson and Jones are young Black men. House Speaker Cameron Sexton said Friday that they are spreading a "false narrative," accusing Johnson of "trying to put political racism in this, which there was nothing on this."

"I think the most resounding message we're hearing from the White House, and across the world and people across this nation, is that this attack on democracy will not go on unchallenged," Jones said on Meet the Press.