Donald Trump’s instrument for revenge against Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp, former U.S. senator David Perdue, has a clean primary shot against the incumbent now that another Trump favorite, former state legislator Vernon Jones, has dropped his gubernatorial bid in favor of a run for Congress.
Jones, who had a long and erratic career as a Democratic politician in the inner-suburban metro Atlanta community of DeKalb County, earned national attention by endorsing Trump’s reelection in 2020. As a prized Black convert to the MAGA cause, Jones snagged a speaking role at the Republican National Convention. He later officially announced he was switching parties from the stage of the infamous January 6, 2021, rally that led directly to the Capitol Riot. Not long after that, Jones jumped into the 2022 gubernatorial primary against Kemp, who earned Trump’s eternal enmity by confirming Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger’s certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win in Georgia.
As a Black Atlanta-area pol with a fair amount of personal baggage and a history of heresy on issues like abortion, Jones was never a real threat to Kemp in the predominately white rural and exurban Georgia GOP. So unsurprisingly, Trump kept looking for a more viable challenger and found one in Perdue. Early polling showed Jones gaining around 10 percent of the primary vote, so it was only a matter of time until this supreme opportunist sought a new opportunity. Jones’s departure from the race should help Perdue while aiding the entire GOP ticket by greatly reducing the odds of a Kemp-Perdue runoff that could seriously damage the winner as he heads into an expensive and high-stakes general election against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
In announcing he was abandoning his gubernatorial bid, Jones indicated he was feeling a calling to Congress, where “strong conservative voices need to be heard.” But Jones is a long-time resident of the heavily Democratic 4th congressional district; he unsuccessfully challenged Representative Hank Johnson there in a 2010 Democratic primary. Word is he is going to run in Georgia’s east-central 10th congressional district, which Trump carried by 23 points in 2020, and is being abandoned by Jody Hice, Trump’s designated scourge for removing Raffensperger as secretary of state.
If so, Jones will make a large and very Trump-y Republican primary field in the 10th larger and Trump-ier. Already in the mix is wealthy trucking executive Mike Collins, who narrowly lost the seat to Hice back in 2014 and whose extremist message I described a few months ago:
[A campaign image] shows Collins in front of a Big Rig labeled the “Trump Agenda” bearing down on a foreign car bearing the images of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, and AOC, pretty much sums up the candidate’s political philosophy. He is promising to “finish the wall,” fight the looming specter of critical race theory, defend “political prisoners” (like the ones prosecuted after January 6), and “stand up for our Christian values against the wacky left-wing cultural agenda.”
Another wealthy candidate already in the race is Matt Richards, whom I’ve described as “the owner of a demolition company who campaigns with a sledgehammer with which he promises to ‘wreck the left.’” And let’s not forget Paul Broun Jr., who spent eight years in the U.S. House as arguably the most extremist member of the chamber before an unsuccessful U.S. Senate race (losing the GOP nomination to Perdue, as it happens).
Perhaps Jones has enough name ID from his Trump association that he can make a Republican runoff and hope his opponent spontaneously combusts from the sheer pressure of trying to outflank the field to the right. Or maybe Trump will actually endorse Jones in gratitude for his move to get out of Perdue’s way. Nearby ultra-MAGA members of Congress Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde could try to play kingmaker. But in any event, it’s going to be a wild and woolly Republican primary on May 24 from the top to the bottom of the ballot.