Democrat lawmaker of ‘Tennessee Three’ announces 2024 challenge to Republican US Sen Marsha Blackburn

Democrat state lawmaker Rep. Gloria Johnson, part of the “Tennessee Three” who joined gun control protesters in disrupting sessions earlier this year after Nashville’s deadly school shooting, announced Tuesday that she is running for U.S. Senate in 2024, challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Marsha Blackburn.  At the first of three stops planned to announce her U.S. Senate bid Tuesday, Johnson addressed a crowd of supporters in Knoxville.  “Once a teacher, always a teacher. And so I’m always willing to help folks that need it because I want our young people to be successful. It’s just critical. They’re our next generation. They’re why we’re here. It’s what we’re fighting for, quite frankly. But just so you know, I’m Gloria Johnson, and I’m running for U.S. Senate,” Johnson said on camera, garnering applause.  Johnson is expected to speak at a memorial park in Memphis later on Tuesday.  TENNESSEE LAWMAKERS EXPELLED IN WAKE OF NASHVILLE SCHOOL SHOOTING VIE TO RECLAIM SEATS “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,” Blackburn’s campaign spokesperson Abigail Sigler said in a statement, reacting to the announcement.  Sigler went on to call Johnson “as woke as the come,” adding that “she would be a puppet for Joe Biden, the Squad, and Chuck Schumer” if she were to join 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 continued. “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 was among fellow Democrat state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson who faced possible expulsion for their roles in a gun control protest inside the Tennessee State Capitol earlier this year. Johnson, who is White, claimed she narrowly escaped expulsion due to her race, given that Jones and Pearson, both Black, were booted from the roles in the Republican controlled state legislature but later reinstated. The incident propelled the trio, dubbed the “Tennessee Three,” to the national spotlight and to a White House visit with President Biden.  The April demonstration came just days after 28-year-old Audrey Hale, a transgender former student, opened fire at The Covenant School, killing three children and three adults.  Meanwhile, Blackburn is still serving her first six-year term in the U.S. Senate after being sworn in January 2019. The Republican, who previously aligned herself with former President Trump but later voted to certify the 2020 election results, previously served in the U.S. House representing Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District.  RAMASWAMY DEMANDS TENNESSEE GOVERNOR, FBI RELEASE NASHVILLE SCHOOL SHOOTER’S MANIFESTO: ‘SPEAK THE TRUTH’ Last week, Republican state lawmakers in Tennessee voted to temporarily silence Jones during an already tense House floor session after determining the young Black member violated newly enacted rules designed to punish disruptive members. The move prohibited Jones from speaking on and debating bills for the remainder of the day, which came a week into a special session that Lee called in reaction to the March shooting at the Christian elementary school.  The state House and Senate are locked in an icy standoff over what to pass as families close to the shooting have increasingly voiced their frustrations with the legislative process. Various mental health, juvenile justice, school safety and other proposals are among what’s being considered. Republican legislative leaders are not taking up any significant gun control changes, including the governor’s push to keep guns away from people judged to pose a threat to themselves or others. Fox News’ Aubrie Spady and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
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