KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson, one of the so-called “Tennessee Three,” officially kicked off her U.S. Senate run against Marsha Blackburn on Tuesday at an event in Knoxville.

The Knoxville Democrat announced her run at Savage Gardens across from Central High School, where she previously worked as a teacher, before embarking on a tour across the state.

Johnson shared some insight into her decision to enter the race during Tuesday’s announcement.

“The reason we’re standing here with Central High School behind us, is because I taught at Central High School,” she said. “I taught at Central High School in 2008 where we had a school shooting and we lost a student. I can’t tell you the trauma that came from that day. For the students, for the parents, for the staff, and for the teachers.”

Johnson said she’ll be traveling the state focusing her attention on young voters.

“You’ve got to speak to the young people if you want them to come out and vote,” she told the crowd. “You got to talk about the things that they care about. We’ll be talking about gun violence. We’ll be talking about equality.”

“We need to make sure that every family has access to affordable health care, that every kid has a great school in every district,” she added. “It shouldn’t matter where you live.”

Johnson has been vocal as one of the “Tennessee Three,” along with representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, calling for tighter gun laws and safer schools. She narrowly avoided expulsion from the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year.

Greg Mackay is from Knoxville and has been heavily involved with the Democratic Party in the area.

“I came down to support Gloria. I think it’s time for a change here in Tennessee,” he said. “The whole world is focused on the crazy stuff that’s been happening in Nashville and it’s just not right. We need to do something about it and I’m excited that Gloria is running.”

Johnson already has support from some of her Democratic counterparts like Rep. Sam McKenzie (D-Knoxville).

“Gloria has been talking about this for a long time,” McKenzie said. “So it’s been a closely held, I won’t say secret, but issue that she’s been talking about but she’s very meticulous, she wanted to do it the right way, she wanted to wait until the appropriate time, post Labor Day, now’s the time to hit the streets running.”

Johnson said she will make a stop in every county in Tennessee during her campaign.

Meanwhile, Senator Blackburn’s campaign shared a statement with WATE 6 On Your Side on Tuesday in response to Johnson’s campaign announcement.

“It’s no surprise that radical socialist Gloria Johnson decided to jump into the race at the urging of liberals in Washington, joining Marquita Bradshaw and others in the race for the Democratic nomination. State Rep. Johnson is as woke as they come, and she would be a puppet for Joe Biden, the Squad, and Chuck Schumer in the Senate. While Senator Blackburn is working hard to fight back against Biden’s woke agenda, State Rep. Johnson is pushing that divisive, destructive agenda here in Tennessee. Tennesseans deserve a United States Senator who is committed to fighting for our conservative values. Senator Blackburn will continue her record of getting things done and fighting for Tennessee families.”

Blackburn campaign spokesperson Abigail Sigler