Sept. 5 (UPI) -- State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Democrat who narrowly avoided expulsion from the Tennessee legislature for protesting inaction on gun violence, announced Tuesday she will challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn in 2024.
Johnson, one of the "Tennessee 3" along with state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, announced her candidacy in a video on X, formerly known as Twitter.
She highlighted standing with her two Democratic colleagues as they spoke out in favor of gun reform in the wake of the Covenant School shooting in Nashville in March.
Jones and Pearson, both Black, were expelled by the Republican majority in the Tennessee House. Both were re-elected in August. Johnson, of Knoxville, avoided expulsion by one vote, but was removed from her committee assignments.
In her announcement, Johnson, a former teacher, focused on the epidemic of gun violence, asking, "When will enough be enough?"
"I know fighting for justice has a cost. I learned that firsthand as a little girl when I had to sleep in a hallway instead of my bedroom to avoid being shot, because my dad had the courage to bring the KKK to justice," Johnson says. "We deserve a leader with the courage to stand up to extremists and billionaires that have taken over our system. That person ain't Marsha Blackburn."
Johnson's father was an FBI agent, according to her campaign website.
Abigail Sigler, a spokeswoman for Blackburn's campaign, said in a statement, "While Sen. Blackburn is working hard to fight back against Biden's woke agenda, state Rep. Johnson is pushing that divisive, destructive agenda here in Tennessee." Sigler said.
Johnson indicated she would support access to abortion, affordable healthcare and prescription drugs. She took aim at Blackburn for her support of a national abortion ban.
Blackburn has supported bills to prohibit the approval of new abortion medications, block funding for organizations that provide abortion services and rescind the defense department's accommodations for pregnant troops to seek abortion services.
The stance by the Tennessee 3 earned the praise of President Joe Biden, who hosted them at the White House following the expulsion of Jones and Pearson.
"You're standing up for our kids, you're standing up for our communities," Biden said in April. "What the Republican legislature did was shocking; it was undemocratic. We passed the most significant gun laws, but there's more to do."
A special session of the Tennessee General Assembly, called to address "public safety" in the wake of the Nashville shooting that killed six people, including three children, ended last week with little progress on gun policy.
Blackburn has served in the Senate since 2019.
Johnson will face Dylan Fain in the Democratic primary on Aug. 1.