BREAKING: This morning, Georgia Rep. Vernon Jones (D-Lithonia) told me he is endorsing Donald Trump for President. Jones sent me this message about why. DeKalb County and Lithonia residents, take a look:
BREAKING: This morning, Georgia Rep. Vernon Jones (D-Lithonia) told me he is endorsing Donald Trump for President. Jones sent me this message about why. DeKalb County and Lithonia residents, take a look: pic.twitter.com/sbk29tMiC5
— Hayley Mason (@HayleyMasonTV) April 14, 2020
AJC reports State Rep. Vernon Jones bucked his party Tuesday and endorsed President Donald Trump, making him the first state elected Democratic official in Georgia to back the Republican’s bid for a second term.
The lawmaker drew a backlash from Democrats who accused him of betrayal at a time when state and national figures were rallying around former Vice President Joe Biden. Top House Democrats responded by endorsing Jones’ primary challenger, while others cast him as a narcissist.
Long a polarizing figure in Georgia politics, Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he views Trump as a transformative president whose policies have helped African American voters, military veterans and farmers.
“It’s very simple to me. President Trump’s handling of the economy, his support for historically black colleges and his criminal justice initiatives drew me to endorse his campaign,” said Jones, who added that he had no immediate plans to switch parties.
“There are a lot of African Americans who clearly see and appreciate he’s doing something that’s never been done before,” Jones said. “When you look at the unemployment rates among black Americans before the pandemic, they were at historic lows.
That’s just a fact.”State Democratic officials tried Tuesday to disown Jones, a former chief executive of DeKalb County, Georgia’s biggest Democratic stronghold. State Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the state party, called him an “embarrassment” who doesn’t reflect Georgia values.
“Never has that been clearer than this moment, when he chose to stand with the racist president who has made an all-out assault on black Americans, who has tried to rip away American health care and who has failed our country in its greatest time of need,” she said.
In a conference call with the AJC, the Georgia House’s three top Democratic leaders backed Rhonda Taylor, a community activist who is challenging Jones in the June primary. House Minority Leader Bob Trammell said he is sending her a check immediately.
“We’re not sure what was on Vernon’s mind. It’s antithetical to what we believe in,” said state Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, the chairman of the party’s House caucus. “We can’t support an ideology that’s diametrically opposed to who we are and what we value.”
State Republicans were overjoyed at the development, which offers Trump’s campaign an African American surrogate who has won the top office in one of Georgia’s most populous — and left-leaning — counties. (Trump captured just 16% of the vote in DeKalb in 2016.)
The Gwinnett County GOP promoted the endorsement on social media and asked supporters to chip in a few dollars “to keep our state red.” And Brandon Phillips, a Republican operative who was chairman of Trump’s campaign in Georgia in 2016, said Jones has been chewing over the decision for years.“Vernon has been a Trump fan for a while,” Phillips said. “Glad to see him putting Georgia first over party.”
Vernon Jones is an embarrassment to the Democratic Party and doesn’t stand for our values. He made that clear today by choosing to stand with a racist president who has made an all-out assault on Black Americans and has tried to rip away our health care. https://t.co/8jCQXY1hmS
— Nikema Williams (@DPGChair) April 14, 2020