Former Democrat Vernon Jones to face Brian Kemp in Republican primary

Former Democratic state lawmaker Vernon Jones says that he will face Gov. Brian Kemp in the Republican's 2022 gubernatorial primary.

Jones, a former state representative, said on Twitter that he would announce his candidacy at a news conference on Friday at the state Capitol.

"In the midst of a battle that will determine the future of not just Georgia, but the future of America and our great experiment known as Democracy, we need a fighter for Georgia," Jones said in the tweet.

Last year, Jones broke party ranks with Democrats to endorse former President Donald Trump’s reelection, saying that he was supporting Trump because of the Republican president’s handling of the economy and his criminal justice reform efforts.

"There are a lot of African Americans who clearly see and appreciate he’s doing something that’s never been done before," Jones said at the time.

(Georgia House of Representatives)

Jones’ endorsement of Trump was quickly blasted by Georgia Democrats. Sen. Nikema Williams issued a statement calling Jones an "embarrassment" and said he "does not stand for our values."

In response, Jones said that he would resign, saying that his "first amendment right to freedom of speech is under siege," he changed his mind because he received "overwhelming" support from his constituents and served the rest of his term.

The former lawmaker then became the only Georgian to speak at the Republican National Convention, saying that said the Democratic Party has been "infected with a pandemic" of intolerance, bigotry, socialism, anti-law enforcement bias, and a "dangerous tolerance for people who attack others, destroy their property, and terrorize our own communities." 

On Jan. 6, Jones announced that he would be officially be switching his political affliction to the Republican Party, saying that Republicans were "in desperate need of leaders that know how to fight." 

In recent months, Jones has criticized Kemp for his actions involving Georgia's presidential election. In March, he tweeted "If it weren’t for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States."

While Jones has not been endorsed by Trump, the former president has been critical of Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger's actions involving the results of the presidential election.

"I'll be here in a year in a half campaigning against your governor," Trump told a cheering crowd at a rally for former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue. "And your crazy secretary of state."

The former lawmaker served as DeKalb County’s CEO and is no stranger to controversy. He weathered allegations of theft as the county’s chief executive, has often clashed with Democrats on policy issues and was accused in March of 2020 of hurling transphobic comments at a local official.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.