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Newton congressional candidates trade barbs over residency, Trump loyalty
Congressional candidates, including Mike Collins and Vernon Jones, take part in a forum hosted by the 10th District Republican Party at Canaan Baptist Church in Covington Feb. 19. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Two leading Republican congressional candidates are trading barbs after one attacked the other for being unfamiliar and unable to vote in the 10th District and the other saying his opponent is losing high-level support.

Mike Collins said after a Feb. 19 political forum his campaign is “going to make sure people understand exactly why people are moving in here, especially people who can’t even vote here” — a reference to Vernon Jones.

“Why don’t they run in their own district? It doesn’t make any sense,” Collins told The Covington News after the Feb. 19 forum.

Jones’ residence is in Lithonia in the heavily Democratic 4th Congressional District and was a Democratic state lawmaker until he left the General Assembly and switched parties in late 2020.

Former President Donald Trump on Feb. 9 endorsed Jones for the 10th Congressional District seat after Jones quit a race for the Republican nomination for governor and endorsed former U.S. Sen. David Perdue in his bid to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp.

Collins then said in an email the same day that Jones was "a corrupt, carpetbagging, lifelong Democrat from DeKalb County who’s been accused of rape."

While Jones was the two-term DeKalb County CEO, a Lithonia woman accused him of rape. The DeKalb district attorney dropped the charges and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time that the woman wanted to avoid the trauma of a trial. Jones at the time declared himself exonerated.

Collins said during the Feb. 19 forum, “I was born, raised, live, work and, yes, I can vote in the 10th District.”

“I got on the Trump train early, before he was even the (2016) nominee,” he said. “I’m an America First, pro-Trump candidate, period.”

Jones, who was campaigning in Social Circle and Morgan County Tuesday, responded to Collins’ criticism by saying he is a former resident of the district.

“I’m not a stranger to the 10th District, having once lived there before. And I couldn’t be more excited to have made my way back home and look forward to casting my ballot at my local precinct in the 10th District come May,” Jones said. 

Collins said his campaign will “get the message out and let people know who all is running in this race and what they really stand for.”

“People need to look really hard, and not just choose who is the loudest one or whatever they plan to do, but really … lift the hood and look up under. You’ll find everything you need to know,” he said.

Collins said 2022 was a prime year to put “solid Republican people in office.”

He said it was for that reason he traveled to Ohio last summer to campaign against U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, who was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach then-President Trump in 2021 for Trump’ actions relating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters. 

Gonzalez said he voted for impeachment because Trump did not do more to discourage his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, from marching on the Capitol and breaking in past Capitol police to stop Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote declaring Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election.

Collins and Trump campaigned for Gonzalez’s primary opponent Max Miller last June. Gonzalez later opted not to run for re-election this year.

Collins also traveled to Washington in September to speak at a “Justice for J6” rally. He said the rioters were “political prisoners” whose Sixth and Eighth Amendment Constitutional rights have been violated by being put in jail.

Jones countered that Gen. Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s National Security advisor, withdrew his endorsement for Collins and endorsed Jones after Collins used “far left far news media” as sources in a TV ad that referenced a series of past charges against Jones. 

“Yesterday’s attack by Mike Collins on the character of my friend Vernon Jones crossed the line,” Flynn wrote. “No true ‘America First’ patriot would seek to sully the character of a good man by citing the Far Left Fake News media. Only a Democrat would.”

Jones referred to RINOs — an acronym for “Republican In Name Only.” It generally refers to Republicans in office and candidates who do not support Trump’s agenda.

“The attacks that Mike Collins continues to make against me are the same attacks that CNN and RINO Republicans made against President Trump. And real conservatives see through them,” Jones said.

“It’s no surprise that his campaign has already began to bleed support, from President Trump to Gen. (Michael) Flynn. ‘America First’ patriots see through his ‘America Last’ campaign.”