COVINGTON, Ga. — Vernon Jones came to Covington armed with his message of being Republicans’ best alternative to Gov. Brian Kemp in the 2022 election.
Jones was the featured speaker for the recent monthly meeting of the Newton County Republican Party.
Using his variation on the phrase “feel the burn,” Jones jokingly told people to “feel the Vern” as he posed for photos outside the meeting in downtown Covington.
He said he was asking Georgia voters to elect him because they “have lost faith in Brian Kemp.”
Jones said in an interview with The Covington News he has more experience than Kemp as an executive following eight years as the DeKalb County government CEO. Kemp served eight years as Secretary of State before his 2018 election as governor.
Jones also served longer than Kemp in the General Assembly, with a total of six terms in the state House spread over two different decades compared to the governor’s two terms in the state Senate, he said.
“I think I’m pretty well capable and competent of running this state,” Jones said.
“I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions. I’m not afraid to look at our current system and see if it’s working.”
Jones said Kemp “cut and ran on election integrity” for not supporting Trump’s call to override Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s determination that Georgia’s 2020 election results were accurate.
Trump was the first Republican since 1992 not to win Georgia. Kemp said he cannot legally interfere in elections because they are overseen by the Secretary of State.
Jones said Kemp also helped bring Dominion Voting Systems to Georgia’s election by authorizing legislation allowing the purchase of the state’s current voting machines from the company in 2019.
Trump and other Republicans claimed the company’s paper ballot-based machines did not accurately count votes in Georgia and other states in 2020. The company has denied the claims and said they cannot be proven.
“People in Georgia don’t feel comfortable with Dominion,” Jones said.
Jones said he did not understand why Kemp did not call for a forensic audit of Georgia votes in the presidential election.
“He’s not called for a special election, he’s not called for an audit,” Jones said.
“(Kemp) is stonewalling. What has he got to hide?” he said.
The state’s election officials will be using the company’s machines for the next 20 years, Jones said.
“There are too many unanswered questions,” he said. “That’s why the governor should have a 159-county forensic audit — not a recount but we’re talking about a real forensic audit.
“If things are OK then fine, but if they’re not we need to do something,” he said.
“This is the first time we’ve used Dominion. Wouldn’t you want to have a real audit to kind of see, OK, are we using a system that’s accurate, that’s fair, that’s transparent, that has integrity?”
Jones said Republicans see Kemp as a “Republican in name only,” often referred to as a “RINO,” because he approved a settlement of a lawsuit with 2018 opponent Stacey Abrams’ group Fair Fight Georgia.
The settlement required election officials statewide to notify voters if their signatures on absentee ballots were rejected.
Former president Donald Trump claimed the settlement made it “impossible” for election officials to match signatures on an absentee ballot with the Secretary of State’s database.
Jones said Kemp believed more in “Stacey law” than state law in supporting the signature notification agreement and use of ballot drop boxes, which Jones and other Republicans have said is open to fraud.
He said he also rejected Abrams’ claims of voter suppression in elections at the state level because elections in Georgia are managed by local governments.
Jones was elected as a Democrat to his Georgia House seat and as CEO of the DeKalb County Commission.
He famously announced he was switching to the Republican Party during a Washington, D.C., rally that preceded the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
He said he switched parties because the Democratic Party had long strayed from being a conservative group in the South to one favoring the liberal tendencies of the national party.
Former governors Nathan Deal and Sonny Perdue and former president Ronald Reagan were among former Democrats who switched to being Republicans, he said.
“I think I’m in pretty good company,” Jones said.
Jones and educator Kandiss Taylor have announced they plan to challenge Kemp for the GOP nomination in 2022.
Many pundits have said Abrams likely will seek the Democratic nomination.
In a related move, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani traveled to Atlanta Wednesday, June 30, to formally endorse and headline a fundraiser for Jones.
Giuliani, who was Trump’s personal attorney, visited Georgia numerous times following the November 2020 election to make claims about voter fraud that Trump supported.
"Rudy Giuliani is a true American hero who has not stopped fighting for election integrity,” Jones said. “He understands that I will also continue to fight for greater transparency particularly in my home state of Georgia.”