NASHVILLE, TN – Exiled Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones is expected to be reinstated Monday after a Republican supermajority booted him from the state Legislature last week for participating in a gun safety protest inside the chamber.
The Nashville Metro Council is voting Monday afternoon to temporarily fill the seat before a special election. It’s anticipated that Jones, 27, will earn enough votes from council members to regain his former seat. The Black freshman lawmaker is planning to then lead a march to the statehouse and return to work just as the Legislature gavels in for an evening session.
While it’s likely that Jones has the support from the majority of the council, it’s unclear if the entire body will agree to allow him to return immediately. Under the council’s rules, there must be a waiting period after an affirmative vote before a reinstated lawmaker can return to the Capitol. Only two council members need to object to a motion to suspend those rules.
A rally, planned for near the Capitol ahead of the council meeting, will feature national figures such as the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The GOP also removed another lawmaker, Rep. Justin Pearson, for violating the same rules of decorum by walking to the well of the chamber and speaking without the permission of Republican leadership. The Memphis City Council will convene Wednesday to consider returning Pearson, 28, to his seat.
A third participant in the protest, Rep. Gloria Johnson, survived despite attempts by the GOP to evict her, too. Johnson, 60, said she believes the vote went differently for her because she is white and her counterparts are Black. The trio led chants calling for changes to gun laws following a deadly mass shooting in Nashville.
The Democrats, dubbed the “Tennessee Three,” have become national heroes of the left for the unparalleled partisan rebuke, appearing frequently on television and visiting with Vice President Kamala Harris, who traveled to Nashville last week to show support for gun safety measures.
The trio even earned a segment on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend.
The story has energized the national Democratic Party that’s eager to drive young and otherwise unengaged voters to the polls during an off year without many high-profile elections.