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Rep. Pearson eyes Aug. General Election after another primary election win

Rep. Justin J. Pearson’s lopsided victory in the latest election to determine a House District 86 state representative sends a “resounding message to the powers that be in Nashville,” Pearson said after his Thursday night win.

The message, Pearson said in a released statement, is “undemocratic, mobocracy-like actions will no longer be met with silence and inaction. They will be met head-on with People Power.”

Rep. Justin J. Pearson acknowledges ongoing support. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) were expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives earlier this year for helping lead a gun control protest on the House floor. Days later, local election officials reinstated Pearson and Jones, with special elections set for both positions.

Jones was unopposed in Thursday’s primary election for his Nashville seat, which also is heavily Democratic. He faces Republican Laura Nelson in the Aug. 3 general election.

In the District 86 special election, Pearson easily outpolled his Democratic challenger, David Page. With no Republican challenger, Pearson will face Jeff Johnston, an independent, in the Aug. 3 general election.

“I am humbled by and grateful for the resounding support I have received,” Pearson said in the statement released after Thursday’s victory. “I promise to never turn away from injustice, to never turn away from the people of District 86 or to those who have been pushed aside.”

Rep. Justin J. Pearson with his fiancée, Oceana R. Gilliam, at the Democratic Primary victory party. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Pearson first won a special election primary for his seat in January. Because he had no general election opponent, local officials appointed him to fill the seat early. After his expulsion, he was appointed back to the seat. If he wins the August general election, he will still be up for election again in the 2024 cycle, with an August primary and November general election.

Pearson — in his statement — said he was committed to bringing the “voices of those who have been pushed to the periphery to the center of the conversation for change” and to fighting to “have the decisions that are made at the state level better reflect the needs of everyone.”

Taking time to commend Page for “his desire to serve the people of District 86,” Pearson said, “We will continue to send a clarion call to District 86 and across the state of Tennessee that power must and will be restored to the people. …

“I look forward to the general election and to what the people will say then.”

Pearson and Jones, along with Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, rose to national prominence after their House Floor protest, three days after a shooting at The Covenant School, a Christian school in Nashville, killed three 9-year-olds and three adults. Republican lawmakers booted the lawmakers from office on April 6 for violating decorum rules during the protest, while sparing Johnson, who is white, from expulsion by one vote for her role in the demonstration.

They made tours of national media appearances, hauled in campaign donations from across the country and visited President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are preparing for a special session called by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who is pushing to remove firearms from people judged dangerous to themselves or others. Republicans, who have supermajorities in the House and Senate, declined to take up Lee’s proposal during the legislative session that ended in April. Lee told reporters this week that crafting the parameters of what will be considered during the session could take a couple more months, as he fields input from lawmakers.

(This story includes a report by the Associated Press.)

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