The University of Georgia’s College Republicans hosted Vernon Jones, who recently announced a bid for governor of Georgia, Wednesday evening. Jones is set to challenge Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022.
Jones has an extensive history as a Democratic politician in Georgia. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001 as a Democrat, then later from 2017 to 2021 as a Democrat. He also served as DeKalb County’s chief executive officer from 2001 to 2009.
He has unsuccessfully run for offices in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. In 2014, he unsuccessfully ran for DeKalb County Sheriff.
In January 2021, he announced his party switch from Democrat to Republican. Jones said he’s “always been very conservative” as a Democrat. He mentioned previous politicians who also switched parties, among them former President Ronald Reagan, former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and former Georgia Gov. and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
“What is Vernon Jones? A Democrat, became Republican, and getting ready to be the next governor of the great state of Georgia,” Jones said.
Arriving late, Jones attempted to hype up a crowd of about 20 audience members. He began speaking about his personal upbringing and the direction in which “the left” is trying to lead the country. He called Stacey Abrams “a fraud” and called President Joe Biden “Joe Crow.”
He opened the floor to questions near the end.
The first question asked was about his recent switch between parties.
“By the time the governor's race comes to fruition, which is about a year from now, it'd be two years [since I switched parties],” Jones said.
A second question probed Jones’ voting history. He voted against the Georgia “heartbeat bill” in 2019, which would have outlawed abortions after six weeks.
“Why did just two years ago you supported aborting unborn babies with the heartbeat bill?” an audience member asked.
He said he voted against it because the bill didn’t go far enough to protect unborn babies.
“Why didn't [Brian Kemp] say from day one? From day one, you can't have an abortion. Why did he do it, if he's so pro-life?” Jones replied.
Alexander, who did not disclose his last name, shouted, “It’s two cells on day one. It’s microscopic.”
Audience members also asked about the spread of misinformation regarding the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. Jones posted on his Facebook page that former President Donald Trump would still be president if Kemp had reversed the results.
Regardless of Georgia's outcome in the 2020 election, Trump would not have had enough electoral votes to remain president.
Jones replied to the question by saying Kemp didn’t do enough to help Trump.
“I'd have campaigned hard for the president in Georgia. Brian didn't. I would have campaigned hard for the president in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin. Yes, I would have done it. Brian never lifted a finger to go outside of this state,” Jones said.
“Every single word out of his mouth is a verifiable lie,” Alexander said after the event had ended. “I mean, it's just shocking to me that he would walk in here and start lie after lie after lie.”
In an interview with The Red & Black after the event, Jones discussed his campaign platform.
He said he would make discrimination against political affiliation a hate crime. He also shifted focus toward law enforcement and Georgia drivers with plans to add courses to driver education programs in order to have new drivers learn how to “handle themselves” during a traffic stop.
Jones said he would make law enforcement officers receive two hours of training in de-escalation and two hours in use of force per year. He would also make law enforcement officers receive mental assessments every three years.