Saturday, May 8, 2021

Vernon Jones: Ex-Democrat (Endorsed by Trump) Challenges Kemp in GA GOP Primary

Vernon Jones - screenshot
Vernon Jones – screenshot

*The political situation in Georgia is about to get even more interesting as a former Democratic state legislator – who switched parties after he endorsed Donald Trump – launched a challenge against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

This insurgent move by Vernon Jones will set the stage for a race that will test the former president’s influence in Georgia.

Jones aims to tap into GOP anger at Kemp for resisting Trump’s demands to overturn Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia in November, even though his long record as an elected Democratic official seems certain to complicate his bid to win over Republican voters.

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At a sparsely attended kickoff event outside the state Capitol, Jones delivered a roughly 30-minute speech where he called Kemp a phony conservative and pledged to replace Georgia’s voting system, which came under attack by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists after Biden’s victory.

As he signed autographs for a small group of supporters, Jones refused to answer a question about how he can attract GOP support as a lifelong Democrat or say whether he expects to receive Trump’s endorsement.

The former president has repeatedly promised to back a primary challenger to Kemp, though it’s not yet clear whether he’ll side with Jones, who gained national attention after he publicly supported Trump’s reelection campaign a year ago. Jones formally switched to the GOP in January, after his term in the Legislature expired.

Even with Trump’s help, Jones faces a steep challenge with the Georgia GOP electorate. Though recent polls show Kemp has been damaged by his falling out with Trump, the first-term governor’s outspoken support for a controversial package of new election restrictions has helped him rally the party’s base.

In recent weeks, Kemp has been a mainstay on conservative cable TV shows and enjoyed raucous receptions at grassroots meetings across the state, seemingly dissuading better-known Republican rivals such as former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, whom Trump once recruited to run.

What’s more, Jones must answer for a long history of controversy in public office that includes allegations of sexual assault that he has denied, along with votes that could alienate Republicans such as Jones’ opposition to a strict anti-abortion “heartbeat” measure that Kemp signed into law in 2019.

Kemp and his allies are eager to portray a contrast between the state’s first lifelong Republican governor since Reconstruction and a party-switching Democrat who only endorsed Trump last year. Bobby Saparow, Kemp’s campaign manager, recited a list of Jones’ stances that included his support for Barack Obama, backing of firearms restrictions and opposition to anti-abortion legislation.

“He is not a Republican, and he is certainly not a conservative,” Saparow said. “Assuming he actually stays in the race, we look forward to contrasting Gov. Kemp’s successful conservative record with Vernon Jones’ liberal, corrupt tenure in public life.”



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