Democrats Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were expelled from the Tennessee House by their Republican colleagues in April, both resoundingly won special elections to reclaim their former seats on Thursday night. The results, including a third race in a dark red district, also continue to show Democratic candidates outperforming recent presidential results—a trend that should worry the GOP.
Following their removal from the House for participating in a protest in favor of gun safety legislation on the chamber floor, both Jones and Pearson were swiftly returned to the legislature under a state law that allows vacancies to be temporarily filled by the governing body in the home county of the lawmaker whose seat needs to be filled. Special elections were still required, however, to elect permanent replacements, though the two Democrats, who rose to national prominence and raised enormous sums thanks to their ordeal, faced little opposition in their safely blue districts.
Pearson, who represents the 86th District in the Memphis area, crushed an independent candidate by a lopsided 94-6 margin; last month, he won a primary by a similar 95-5 spread. Jones, whose 52nd District is in Nashville, didn’t face a primary but he did dispatch a Republican opponent 78-22—a 55-point victory. That beat out Joe Biden’s 69-28 margin in the same district by 14 points.
That overperformance was also very similar to one by another Democrat who ran in the extremely conservative 3rd District in East Tennessee, Lori Love. While Love lost to Republican Timothy Hill, who’d previously represented the district during the 2010s, Hill’s 75-25 win was actually 13 points behind Donald Trump’s 81-18 score in 2020.
Including both the Pearson and Love races, Democrats nationwide are now outperforming 2020 presidential numbers by an average of 7.5 points in special elections that have featured Democrat vs. Republican matchups, according to our Daily Kos Elections tracker. Though no single race can be predictive of future outcomes, special elections tend to closely correlate with U.S. House results in the ensuing general election when taken collectively. While much can change between now and November of next year, if current trends hold, Democrats are likely to enjoy a considerable advantage in 2024.
It’s a joyous week in Wisconsin, where Janet Protasiewicz’s swearing-in means that the state Supreme Court now has its first liberal majority in 15 years. We’re talking about that monumental transition on this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” including a brand-new suit that voting rights advocates filed on Protasiewicz’s first full day on the job that asks the court to strike down the GOP’s legislative maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders.