If Georgians want someone who reminds them of the last occupant of the White House, with all the same self-confidence and overall chutzpah, look no further than the newest announced Republican candidate for governor.
He may just be the best fit of all for some who believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
Vernon Jones has run for offices at the local, state and congressional levels in Georgia.
His current political position — very public support for Trump and his announced candidacy to unseat incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022 — would seem to run counter to his past words and actions in public office.
Jones is similar to Trump in that both had publicly supported a number of positions some consider left-leaning or moderate before winning their respective offices.
However, Jones differs from Trump because Jones comes in as a seasoned political veteran.
He has won state House seats representing south DeKalb County districts in two different decades. He also was elected in 2000 as the first Black chief executive officer (sort of the equivalent of chairman) of DeKalb County government.
As a Georgia lawmaker, Jones helped sponsor the measure to remove the Confederate battle emblem that dominated the state flag at the time.
Support for the removal without buy-in from rural Georgia is credited as a major reason the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Sonny Perdue, ousted the state’s last Democratic governor, Roy Barnes, in 2002.
Jones as CEO also helped bring about then-controversial domestic partner benefits for DeKalb employees.
But Jones also was credited with maintaining a healthy bond rating and economic position for the often financially-troubled DeKalb.
He is credited with a number of initiatives that helped minority and socially maligned DeKalb residents, such as a major redesign of a highway that made the high-speed thoroughfare safer and more pedestrian-friendly in a heavily Latinx part of north DeKalb.
At what arguably may have been his political height upon re-election in 2004, longtime Clayton County Chairman and former Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell serenaded Jones after his swearing-in.
But his personal life also has been tumultuous.
A woman claimed Jones raped her in 2004 in his Lithonia home after an encounter with the then-CEO and his ex-girlfriend. She later decided not to pursue the case.
In public statements as CEO, he railed during county commission meetings against the heavily Republican and all-white Dunwoody City Council, saying there was not “a lot of diversity there.”
Jones also expressed public support for the Rev. Arthur Allen in a speech to a group of parents during a sixth-grade graduation ceremony.
Allen was an Atlanta pastor who spent two years in prison, from 2003 to 2005, for having children at his church disciplined with belts and whips in 2001 in front of his congregation when they misbehaved.
Voters also have rejected Jones three times. He would have been the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2008 if the state didn’t have the runoff requirement for candidates not winning a majority in a multi-candidate race.
He also got beat badly in a challenge to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson in 2010.
In a 2014 run for DeKalb sheriff, Jones lost in even more spectacular fashion to Jeff Mann by gaining only 24% of the vote.
Mann would go on three years later to be arrested for allegedly exposing himself in an Atlanta park and running from a police officer.
But Jones found an opening to return to public office in 2016 when he won an open seat in the Georgia House of Representatives.
He then became the first elected Democratic official in Georgia to endorse Trump’s re-election bid in April 2020 and was a speaker during the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Then, Jones decided not to seek re-election and announced a switch to the GOP.
Earlier this month, he announced he would seek the governor’s seat.
“Now more than ever, the Republican Party is in desperate need of leaders that know how to fight. We are in the midst of a battle that will determine not just the future of Georgia, but the future of America and our great experiment known as democracy,” he said.
“It was 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.”
It will be up to the voters to decide where Jones’ political allegiances are today.
Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.