By Logan Langlois

NASHVILLE, TN — Meet Justin Jones, the young Tennessee legislative house candidate running for the Democratic nomination as District 52’s next representative. Jones has repeatedly made headlines over the years for his grassroots campaigning for social change and outspoken political activism. Now, Jones is looking to create change from within the house which he has been working with from the outside for so many years. 

During a phone interview with Jones, he said that it was people within District 52 itself who reached out to him asking for his candidacy. They reportedly were saying that they need a bold voice which is not afraid to fight back against “some of the extremism we’re seeing at the state level.” Jones went on to detail how he believes that he is the candidate who will do just that, citing his already ten year long resumé of fighting for social change. 

Among the issues he cited as having helped organize around are those surrounding voting rights, healthcare, racial justice, living wages, and public education. Jones also mentioned his social campaigning which successfully led to the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the Tennessee State capitol. He would go on to help organize the ‘Stop A Bill’ campaign during this last session, which successfully halted legislation which would have made it legal to run over protestors who are occupying public streets. 

These victories however are nowhere near enough for the people of District 52 according to Jones. The most diverse district in the state of Tennessee, made of primarily Black and Brown peoples from many different ethnicities and countries, residents are still in need of systematic change. Issues which Jones has heard people bring to his attention are the need for immigrant and refugee rights as well as greater dignity for the working class through affordable housing and more accessible public transportation. 

Jones also plans on addressing state-wide issues if elected into office. Issues such as public education, in making sure that students have access to a real support system and schools have the funding to provide that system. Jones also said he would work to address the lack of affordable Healthcare, much of which is due to Tennessee’s lack of expansion of Medicaid. 

If he is indeed voted into office, Jones would be stepping into a Democratic Party which makes up the super minority of the legislative house at a mere 25 percent. Undeterred, Jones still believes that he will be able to find common ground with his prospective colleagues. He believes that many of the issues which he is addressing are not that of “left and right” but of “right and wrong.” 

“The truth is that Republicans are not monolithic,” says Jones. “There is division within the Republican caucus. You have an extreme group of folks, predominantly from Williamson County, who control the legislature, who control the governor’s office. And yet these rural counties where a lot of these republicans are coming from are dealing with issues like not having access to hospitals because [they’re] closing because we haven’t extended Medicaid. Folks in the counties need living wages … access to good quality public education, and so we have a lot more in common.”

Jones goes so far as to label the kind of laws he says are causing harm to be forms of “policy violence.” The kind of policy he’s talking about that meets that definition is that which meets this definition is that which denies people healthcare and housing, as well as legislation which he claims makes it easier to buy a gun rather than to vote. He calls the actions “shameful” which he cites to be responsible for 1 out of every 5 Tennessean children living in poverty, teachers being without livable wages and people having to go without shelter during extreme weather conditions.

If elected, Jones says wants people to feel as if the capitol is the “People’s House,” where anyone can enter and have their truth heard. The primary election for the Tennessee House opens Thursday, August 4th. General elections open Tuesday, November, 8th.