scorecardA Tennessee RNC member says vote to expel 2 Democratic lawmakers over a gun control protest hurt the GOP brand: 'You've energized young voters against us'
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A Tennessee RNC member says vote to expel 2 Democratic lawmakers over a gun control protest hurt the GOP brand: 'You've energized young voters against us'

John L. Dorman   

A Tennessee RNC member says vote to expel 2 Democratic lawmakers over a gun control protest hurt the GOP brand: 'You've energized young voters against us'
PoliticsPolitics2 min read
Former Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville sits in the gallery of the House chamber in Nashville, Tenn., after being expelled from the legislature on April 6, 2023.    AP Photo/George Walker IV
  • A Republican National Committee member told The Times that ousting 2 Democratic lawmakers "didn't help" the GOP.
  • Tennessee state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were removed from their positions by the GOP-led House.

A member of the Republican National Committee from Tennessee said that the vote by the GOP-led Tennessee House of Representatives to expel two Democratic lawmakers for their gun reform protests "didn't help" the party's brand and has now "energized young voters against us."

Oscar Brock, commenting on the Republican-led decision to expel state Reps. Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis over their calls for action after the mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, told The New York Times that the repercussions of the GOP effort went beyond the loss of political support.

"If my job, along with other members of the RNC, is to protect the brand of the Republican Party, this didn't help," he told the newspaper. "You've energized young voters against us. Worse than squandering support, you've made enemies where we didn't need them."

Even in a state House that's dominated by Republicans — with the party holding 75 out of the 99 seats — Brock said that there are politically-competitive areas throughout Tennessee where voters have been paying close attention to the situation in Nashville. He said that legislative Republicans could still remain true to the Second Amendment while also listening to colleagues and constituents who would like to see gun safety measures put into place.

"Even in Tennessee, we have swing districts in the State House and Senate," he told The Times, "and if you've angered tens of thousands of students and presumably their parents, you could theoretically expose yourself to a united front."

Jones, 27, and Pearson, 28, have leaped to national stardom as the optics of two young Black lawmakers ousted from their elected positions by an overwhelmingly white and conservative House has become a story about race, a seemingly intractable urban-rural divide, and the state of modern politics in the South.

The situation was also inflamed by the fact that Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, a white lawmaker, was also a part of the protest on the House floor, but was spared from expulsion.

Both Jones and Pearson can be reappointed to their seats, but special elections will also have to be set by the governor.




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