Opinion: Gloria Johnson will find the fringe is no place to be in U.S. Senate campaign in Tennessee

Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian via AP / Justin Pearson, Gloria Johnson and Justin Jones raise their fists in solidarity at a rally to support of Pearson on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 in Memphis.

A Knoxville state representative is hoping to parlay her notoriety as one of the so-called "Tennessee Three" to the United States Senate in 2024.

We think Democrat Gloria Johnson will need a lot more to her resume than just being known as the woman who didn't get expelled from the state House last spring when two of her colleagues did for shattering decorum during a legislative protest over state gun laws.

She would oppose first-term U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who spent two decades in the state legislature and the U.S. House before succeeding retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker in 2019.

Blackburn, an outspoken backer of former president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump, is further to the right than the tradition of recent Tennessee senators such as Howard Baker, Bill Frist, Lamar Alexander and Corker but is properly opposed to the ruinous policies of the Biden administration and does not hesitate to work across the aisle, as we have written.

And since our already red state is solidly in the Trump camp — 61% of Republicans preferred him for the GOP nomination in a July poll — they're not not likely to cross over and pull the level against Blackburn next November.

Johnson, who is serving her fourth non-consecutive term in the state House, is a former teacher and already has signalled her intention to pull the race into the mud, referring to the current senator as a bully, corrupt and a liar.

Makes you really look forward to the next year, doesn't it?

Of course, Johnson won't be handed the Democratic nomination outright. She joins environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw in the race. Bradshaw was the shocking winner of the 2020 U.S. Senate Democratic primary, getting 35.5% of the vote to win a plurality and defeat presumed favorite James Mackler, a Nashville attorney and Iraq war veteran. In the general election, though, she got but 35.2% of the vote against former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty.

Johnson, whose politics won't differ much from Bradshaw's, is likely to find that the average Tennessee voter is not on the fringe left and that running a campaign from that perch is a sure loser.

Democrats, after all, haven't won a statewide race since moderate Gov. Phil Bredesen won a second term in 2006. And even if the GOP's lack of action on guns in the state legislature peels off a few votes to the Democrats, the parties are not close to running on par in the state.