State Representative Justin Pearson of Tennessee said he raised $860,000 after he was expelled from the state legislature after participating in a gun control protest on the House floor.
Mr Pearson, who represents a district in Memphis, was one of three Democratic legislators who faced expolsion from the chamber after their participation in a protest sparked by a mass shooting that claimed six lives at a Nashville school in March.
But the explosion of Mr Pearson and Rep Justin Jones seems to have backfired on the Republican majority in several ways. Mr Pearson and Mr Jones were both re-appointed to their seats, and now Mr Pearson has revealed the effect his brief expolsion from the chamber had on his fundraising.
Mr Pearson recieved donations from more than 31,000 people, the majority of whom donated in the week between his expulsion and his reinstatement by a unanimous vote of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners. The amount of money Mr Pearson recieved is all the more notable because Tennessee legislators are barred from fundraising during legislative sessions.
“To see so much support, particularly from these tens of thousands of small-dollar donations, is a testament to what I believe is a people-powered movement, which is that we all have something to contribute, and our little bits of contribution makes a lot,” Mr Pearson told the Associated Press.
Now, however, Mr Pearson has the kind of money in his campaign coffers that some state legislators never amass. The 28-year-old graduate of Bowdoin College, only raised around $144,000 during his successful campaign for the state House earlier this year. The Associated Press reported that the entire Tennessee House Democratic Caucus only raised around $233,000 during the 2022 election year.
But that was a long time ago. When Republicans singled out Mr Pearson, Mr Jones, and Rep Gloria Johnson for their participation in the gun control protest, they quickly elevated them to national stardom.
Mr Pearson, Mr Jones, and Ms Johnson became consistent presences on national television, visited the White House, and made appearances outside of Tennessee. National Democrats like Sen Chris Murphy of Connecticut helped fundraise.
Now, given his considerable profile and youth, Mr Pearson has been mentioned as a potential rising star in a Tennessee Democratic Party that has fallen on hard times in recent years. It’s a remarkable rise for an environmental activist who wasn’t even in elected office until January.
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