Former President Donald Trump put his thumb on the scale of Georgia Republican politics again Thursday, endorsing state Sen. Burt Jones in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor and reiterating his support for newly declared U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
The move underlines a developing Trump slate in Georgia’s 2022 primary even as some Republicans line up behind other candidates.
Neither endorsement was a surprise. Trump had publicly encouraged Walker to enter the race, while he had attacked Jones’ top GOP rival, Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Gainesville, for not doing enough to try to overturn President Joe Biden’s November victory in Georgia.
Trump in March endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice’s bid for secretary of state as he seeks to unseat fellow Republican and incumbent Brad Raffensperger, a much more prominent target of Trump’s ire in his loss of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.
Gov. Brian Kemp has also been a subject of Trump’s wrath. The former president has not endorsed a challenger to Kemp, although Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones has been openly campaigning for Trump’s support. Some Trump-aligned forces have sought to line up other challengers to Kemp.
Jones was an early endorser of Trump in 2016. He was one of a group of state senators who urged Kemp to call a special session to consider overturning Georgia’s presidential election results and who signed a court brief supporting a failed lawsuit by Texas officials challenging election results in Georgia and other states. Jones also mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Miller for president pro tem. Those two actions led Miller and other Senate Republican leaders to strip Jones of his committee chair position.
In his formal campaign kickoff last month near his hometown of Jackson, Jones said he wanted Georgia to further investigate the results of the Nov. 2020 presidential election, even though multiple recounts and a series of lawsuits have produced no significant evidence of fraud or wrongdoing.
Trump called Jones a "conservative warrior," saying Jones will "get to the bottom of the Nov. 3 presidential election scam."
The lieutenant governor post is open in 2022 because Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a vocal opponent of efforts to overturn the election, isn’t seeking a second term. Miller and Jones are the top Republican candidates declared so far.
Trump’s renewed backing of Walker — saying the former football great and businessman "embodies ‘America First’ and the winning spirit of Georgia" — is hardly a surprise, considering their long relationship. But not all Trump-aligned Republicans are sold on Walker. Former U.S. Rep Doug Collins, who has been favored by Trump in the past, on Monday endorsed state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in the Senate primary.
"We need people who have the integrity of Gary Black," Collins told a crowd at an event at Black’s farm near Commerce. "I don’t care who else is running. I’m supporting Gary Black."
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Donald Trump had attacked a rival of Gary Black. He attacked a rival of Burt Jones
Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.