This story was updated to reflect the recent reinstatement of Rep. Justin Jones, one of two Black representatives who was ousted by Republicans in Tennessee.
In a unanimous vote and a rebuke of Tennessee Republicans, the Nashville Metropolitan Council on Monday voted to reappoint Justin Jones to the state House of Representatives. Jones returns as an interim representative and will again act on behalf of House District 52.
The 36-0 vote came after the council suspended its rule that disallowed an individual from being nominated and appointed to the seat in the same meeting. A spokesperson for House Speaker Cameron Sexton said he’d go along with the council if they chose to send Jones back.
He also indicated that he’d also welcome back Justin Pearson if Memphis officials voted later this week to return him to the House. “The two governing bodies will make the decision as to who they want to appoint to these seats,” the Speaker said in a statement. “Those two individuals will be seated as representatives as the constitution requires.”
The Shelby County Commission expects to take up a motion to return Pearson on Wednesday.
The expulsion of the two Democrats, who vociferously called on their colleagues to act on gun control after the latest school shooting in Nashville that claimed the lives of three elementary school students and three adults.
The backlash has been palpable, and even some Republicans have expressed regret for the actions of party members and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who led the vote to oust Jones and Pearson.
“If my job, along with other members of the R.N.C., is to protect the brand of the Republican Party, this didn’t help,” Oscar Brock, a Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee, told the New York Times. “You’ve energized young voters against us. Worse than squandering support, you’ve made enemies where we didn’t need them.”
He continued: “Even in Tennessee, we have swing districts in the State House and Senate, and if you’ve angered tens of thousands of students and presumably their parents, you could theoretically expose yourself to a united front,” Brock demanded.
Rev. Mark Thompson, the host of Make it Plain and an NNPA contributor, returned to Tennessee on Monday for the vote to re-seat Jones, his longtime friend.
On NNPA’s Let It Be Known, Thompson stated, “My understanding is that the Nashville National City Council will re-seat Jones, and I believe the Memphis Council will meet later in the week to discuss Pearson.” Thompson noted that most, if not all, flights to Nashville have been sold out, signaling the large demonstrations ahead. “This isn’t going away,” Thompson asserted.
“This is a movement. This is going to build and grow. You can’t do this, it’s not sustainable. I’m not sure that if the two Justins are re-seated the movement will stop. This is bad for the national Republican party.”
Phyllis Qualls, who’s covering the proceedings for the Tennessee Tribune, said the G.O.P. leadership miscalculated in expelling Jones and Pearson.
“Republicans had no vision as to the aftermath of what they can do,” Qualls said. “Mom has always said, ‘What’s done in the dark will come out in the light.’ The Republicans took a major issue like gun control and reduced it to decorum. It’s almost like children in the car complaining that ‘Mom, he’s looking at me.’ The crimes doesn’t equate, and to do this during holy week, you crucified these men, and they are rising to a level that nobody expected. They have become leaders of the gun control issue, and it was the Republicans who caused that.”
Stacy M. Brown is the NNPA Newswire senior national correspondent.