Expelled legislators win primary election to remain in office

Reps. Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson move on to Aug. 3 general election where they both will face opposition.
WSMV4's Danielle Jackson reports.
Published: Jun. 15, 2023 at 10:47 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2023 at 4:21 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Two Democratic state representatives expelled in April won primary elections on Thursday in races to remain in office.

Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, was unopposed in the District 52 primary election. Rep. Justin J. Pearson, D-Memphis, won his race against David Page in the District 86 Democratic primary by a landslide.

Jones and Pearson were expelled from the State House after participating in a demonstration in the well of the House chambers days after The Covenant School shooting that claimed the lives of three children and three adults.

“This is the only election happening in Nashville today, and I think we have to remember that it is happening because of the decision from my colleagues to take the unprecedented step of expelling myself and Representative Pearson, two duly elected lawmakers,” Jones said before polls closed on Thursday.

Both Jones and Pearson were reinstated to their seats after their respective county legislative body voted them back in on an interim basis until an election could be held.

Jones said the decision to expel him by Republican leaders thrust him into Thursday’s primary where taxpayers are now footing the bill.

As he ran unopposed, WSMV4 asked Jones how some of his constituents felt heading to the polls.

“People are frustrated, but they’re also energized because they see what we’re facing is a crisis that requires everyday people getting involved,” Jones said.

For Thursday’s primary, Pearson faced one Democratic opponent.

He said anti-democratic behaviors like expulsions will not change by itself, however, it takes people to spark that change.

“We are relying on the people powered movement that is multiracial, that is intergenerational, that is lifting up the voices of hundreds of thousands and millions of Tennesseans that want to see something done on gun safety, that want to see something done on the issues that matter to our communities, both in rural, suburban and urban Tennessee,” Pearson said.

Jones and Pearson will both run in the general election on Aug. 3.

“My message to the people is that this election is not about one candidate or one campaign. It’s really a referendum on democracy,” Jones said.

In the general election, Jones will run against Republican opponent Laura Nelson, who was unopposed in Thursday’s primary election. Pearson will face Jeff Johnston, who is running as an independent, in August.