Justin Pearson reappointed to Tennessee House of Representatives after ouster

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Supporters of expelled Tennessee Rep. Justin Pearson applauded Wednesday as the Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted 7-0 to reappoint him to his seat less than a week after he and another lawmaker were ousted from the state House of Representatives.

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The House voted last week to expel Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, after they led gun-reform chants on the House floor following last month’s deadly shooting at The Covenant School, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. A third lawmaker, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, kept her seat by a single vote.

Earlier, the three had been stripped of their committee and subcommittee assignments, WMC-TV reported.

“They tried to kill democracy,” Pearson told a cheering crowd Wednesday. “They tried to expel the people’s choice and the people’s voice, and they awaken a sleeping giant. They put Gloria Johnson and Justin Jones and me on trial but they ended up putting themselves on trial, and the people’s verdict is back.”

The vote Wednesday came two days after the Nashville Metro Council unanimously voted to reinstate Jones to his seat.

In a statement obtained by WREG-TV, Pearson said he was humbled and grateful to be returning to the House of Representatives.

“We’ve been through a lot this past week, but the struggle continues and we’re in this together,” he said. Later, he added, “As Dr. King said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ We are benders of that arc and justice is what we will achieve — justice for those who mourn the loss of loved ones to gun violence and endure the stubborn racial and financial disparities that have no place in our world.”

Pearson began representing District 86, which includes parts of Memphis and Shelby County, after winning his seat in January, WHBQ-TV reported.

The lawmaker will still have to run in a special election to keep his seat, a move he has indicated he will make, the Commercial Appeal reported. When a seat is vacated in the Tennessee Legislature, members of the county’s legislative body can appoint someone to serve in the role until a special election can be called, according to the newspaper.