Johnson offers populist message in challenge to Blackburn

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

Bring out the coonskin caps. We’ve got a dib of Davy Crockett and a dab of Estes Kefauver with a touch of McNairy County Sheriff Buford Pusser. (And if you kids don’t know, look ‘em up.)

“I’m Gloria Johnson, and I’m running for the U.S. Senate,” she said. It was the same ol’ Gloria, nodding to friends, reaching out to the crowd. And it was pretty much the same ol’ crowd. Lots of grey. Of course, who but retirees can manage a 9 a.m. announcement at a place with no parking.

“Look,” Johnson said on a commercial that was posted on X/Twitter. “I’m 6-foot-3 and I’ll stand up to anybody.”

Without a wasted word, Johnson hit her points. The meeting wasn’t really at Savage Garden, by the way. It was across Garden Drive in a field that had Central High School as a backdrop.

“I taught here in 2008 when we lost Ryan McDonald to gun violence,” she said, mentioning the trauma to students, staff and the Fountain City community from the early morning shooting. “I was in my classroom preparing for the day and the kids were in the cafeteria eating breakfast. I looked up and saw students running toward my room, running down the hill with looks of fear. Some of those students saw Ryan take his last breath.

“And we’re still seeing that today. We’ve got to do something and (running for the Senate) is the something I decided to do.”

Johnson will forfeit her seat in the state House of Representatives to challenge Sen. Marsha Blackburn in 2024 – about a year and two months from now. Blackburn is finishing her first six-year term after a few terms in the U.S. House and time in the state Senate.

Johnson challenges Blackburn on economic issues such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and capping insulin prices at $35 per month. Blackburn was against both initiatives and she has taken $2 million from the insurance industry and Big Pharma, Johnson said.

“I promise to work for you and to stand tall for Tennesseans.”

“How can we win?” she asked. “With a multi-cultural, multi-generational campaign. I can’t do it by myself. I need all of you (pause to laugh) and 10 of your friends.”

Johnson said Memphis Democrat Justin J. Pearson will be a campaign manager. With that she was gone, headed for Nashville and Memphis to announce her candidacy.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today Inc.


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