Tennessee lawmaker: 'Partisan' GOP efforts to oust him were a 'gross miscalculation'
Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives set off a major outcry when, on Thursday, April 6, they voted to expel two Democratic state lawmakers — Rep. Justin J. Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones, both African-African — for participating in a pro-gun control demonstration. A third Democrat serving in the Tennessee House, Gloria Johnson, was a candidate for expulsion as well. But Republicans didn't have the two-thirds majority needed to remove her.
Much of the outcry has come from Democrats, but some Never Trump conservatives have spoken out as well. The Bulwark's Charlie Sykes and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, both frequent guests on MSNBC, have slammed the votes to oust Pearson and Jones as a shameless power grab. And Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris expressed her solidarity with the "Tennessee 3" — Pearson, Jones and Johnson — when she visited Tennessee to meet with them.
In an op-ed published by CNN's website on April 12, Pearson emphasizes that Tennessee Republicans did not expect the "backlash" that their power grab would set off.
"Republicans who instigated my removal from the Tennessee House last week, along with and that of my legislative colleague Rep. Justin Jones, apparently failed to anticipate the nationwide backlash that their actions would engender," Pearson observes. "Democracy prevailed, and the rule of law has won. This week, I plan to retake my seat. After a vote Wednesday, (April 12) by the Shelby County Commission, I hope and fully expect to once again represent the beautifully diverse jurisdiction of District 86 in Memphis in Tennessee's Assembly — as I did until Thursday of last week, when Republicans voted to remove me and Rep. Jones."
Jones, Pearson adds, was "sent back to the House" on Monday, April 10 "following a vote by the council of his district in Metro Nashville."
Pearson has made it clear that he is happy to debate the gun control issue with Republicans in the Tennessee State Legislature. But the Republicans who voted to oust him, the Democratic state lawmaker laments, didn't want a debate — they simply wanted to silence him, Jones and Johnson. And in the end, it didn't work.
"The spectacle was a gross miscalculation by Republicans in the chamber," Pearson argues. "It turns out that most Americans care deeply about democracy. Most people care about equality and progress. And over two-thirds of Americans — including four out of 10 Republicans — support the kind of common-sense gun safety laws that Rep. Jones, Rep. Johnson and I were protesting in favor of, in the wake of the senseless March 27 Covenant School massacre."
Read Tennessee Rep. Justin J. Pearson's full op-ed at this link.
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