This article is an opinion.
Vernon Jones can be described as a typical politician in many ways.
If the wind is blowing a certain direction, then Jones wants to follow along. Jones was a lifelong Democrat and was elected as such to various offices. Now he is a full-time Republican and wants to be the next governor of Georgia. Talk about doing an about face.
Just a short time ago seeking statewide office in Georgia as a Republican was not that difficult. But Jones faces some obstacles on the course.
First, Brian Kemp is running for reelection as a Republican. His 2018 campaign used some silly but effective tactics. He talked about having his shotgun ready for would-be suitors of his daughter. Behind closed doors you have to wonder if Kemp himself was laughing at Georgia voters.
Kemp, along with Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, came under intense fire following the 2020 election. Ironically, none of the three Republicans were even on the ballot.
When Donald Trump lost the state of Georgia to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, many in Georgia faulted the trio. When each began speaking out that voter fraud did not exist, the banter got even hotter.
Raffensperger took the most criticism. It reached a point where his family had to go into hiding for a time after homes were broken into. Kemp came to the defense of Raffensperger, but eventually Kemp realized his key to reelection in 2022 was to ease off that defense and begin impressing voter fraud.
Kemp would later sign a new voting law into law which has drawn criticism from many, including Major League Baseball which pulled this year’s All-Star game from Atlanta. That move cost the state millions of dollars.
Jones meanwhile was a very vocal supporter of Trump during the 2020 election. Jones had great value as a long-time Democrat who was now campaigning for the other side. He was seen crowd surfing at a Trump rally in Macon.
In recent months, Jones has decided Kemp did not do enough to make sure President Trump won Georgia’s electoral votes. As a result, Jones is now running in the Republican primary for governor in 2022.
Most of the news from the Jones campaign centers on how Kemp has not and is not doing enough to declare Trump the winner of Georgia’s 2020 vote. Even if, in theory, that was to happen, Trump would still not have enough electoral votes to win.
Recent polls, however, among Republicans show that 30% believe Trump is somehow going to be returned to the White House, not after the 2024 election but in the year 2021.
Jones is banking on making Kemp as anti-Trump as possible. It is a strategy that will almost certainly win him a good slice of the GOP primary voters next year.
Educator Kandiss Taylor is also running in the GOP primary for governor against Kemp and Jones. Taylor ran in the 2020 “jungle primary” for US Senate and has built a strong grassroots level of support. Her campaign has centered on many of the topics that Jones talks about including an audit of the 2020 Georgia vote.
It is certain more names could enter the Republican primary for governor. Kemp is certainly vulnerable and Jones has pointed out that with Stacey Abrams the likely Democratic nominee, that it would take another African-American candidate like himself to defeat her.
Abrams came within an eyelash of winning the 2018 election. Two years later the Republican tide which has swept over Georgia for decades ended up receding somewhat with both US Senate seats going to Democratic. This was in addition to the outcome of the presidential election here. No word yet on if Kemp’s shotgun will make a return in 2022. The governor should know that stereotypical slogans might not be enough to win a second term.
Kemp is in for a tough battle in continuing his political career. As the incumbent he is still the favorite to win the GOP nomination but he then faces a well-organized and well-funded Democrat for the general election.
Will Kemp be Georgia’s governor by the time 2023 arrives? Right now the odds are about even.
Chris Bridges is a former editor for The News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.