Tennessee Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones have advanced past an election hurdle after the two young Black lawmakers were expelled earlier this year for their gun control protest on the House floor, then reinstated by local officials days afterward.
Pearson appeared to handily defeat Democratic opponent David Page on Thursday in his Memphis district and advance to face independent candidate Jeff Johnston in the Aug. 3 general election, according to to unofficial results from the Shelby County Election Commission with all precincts reporting. He has no Republican opponent for the seat, which favors Democrats.
Jones was unopposed in Thursday's primary election for his Nashville seat, which also is heavily Democratic. He faces Republican Laura Nelson in the Aug. 3 general election.
The Associated Press did not tabulate the results for the races.
The pair's protest took place on March 30, three days after a shooting at The Covenant School, a Christian school in Nashville, killed three 9-year-olds and three adults. Republican lawmakers booted the lawmakers from office on April 6 for violating decorum rules during the protest, while sparing Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson from expulsion by one vote for her role in the demonstration.
Within a week, officials in Nashville and Shelby County, which includes Memphis, voted to appoint the lawmakers back to their seats on an interim basis.
Over a matter of weeks, Pearson, Jones and Johnson rose to national prominence.
They have made tours of national media appearances, hauled in campaign donations from across the country and visited President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House.
Pearson grew up in Memphis and went to high school in the same district he now represents. The sprawling district sits on the Mississippi River, winding along neighborhoods, forests and wetlands of south Memphis, through parts of downtown and then north into a series of semi-rural communities.
Jones' district wends into Nashville's Antioch neighborhood, southeast portions of the city and part of East Nashville, and it includes Nashville International Airport.
Julia Bruck, the Tennessee secretary of state office’s spokesperson, has said local officials believe the Nashville special election will cost about $120,000 to administer, while the Memphis one will cost between $375,000 and $500,000.