A former Democratic state lawmaker in Georgia, who switched to the GOP after backing then-President Trump’s reelection bid, on Friday announced a 2022 Republican primary challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp, who sits high atop the former president’s list of political targets.
The former lawmaker, Vernon Jones, tweeted Thursday evening, "The time has come. Georgia is ready!" He announced that he would hold a press conference Friday morning outside the Georgia state capitol building, in downtown Atlanta, to announce his candidacy.
As he formally launched his gubernatorial bid outside the state capitol, Jones called his campaign the "beginning of a movement whose time has come."
And he said that "for those of you who feel the incumbent governor didn't fight for you, a new day has dawned."
Trump has vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp when he’s up for reelection next year, to punish his onetime ally for refusing to help the then-president’s efforts last year to overturn the election results in Georgia. President Biden edged Trump in Georgia by less than 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democrat to carry the state in the White House race in over a quarter-century.
The ballots in Georgia were counted three times — the original Election Day count, a mandatory hand recount and a recount requested by the president's campaign.
Trump refused to concede to Biden and claimed for two months that there was massive voter fraud in Georgia and five other states where Biden narrowly won. Dozens of legal challenges by Trump and his allies were shot down, and then-Attorney General William Barr said his Justice Department had not seen fraud on the kind of scale that could flip the election. Trump repeatedly attacked Kemp for refusing to aid his attempts to reverse Biden's victory.
At a rally in Georgia on the eve of the state’s twin Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections, Trump pledged, "I'll be here in about a year and a half campaigning against your governor."
While it’s unclear if Trump will endorse Jones, the candidate on Wednesday tweeted out a video of himself standing in a crowd last week with the former president at Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago resort in south Florida.
"This is my friend," Trump says in the video as he looks to Jones, before asking, "When are you announcing?" Jones then says "next week."
Accompanying the video, Jones wrote in the tweet: "The location is set, Mr. President. I hope to see my fellow Georgians at Liberty Plaza at 10am as I share my plans for the future of this state. We will put #GeorgiaFirst."
Jones, 60, was a longtime Democratic state lawmaker. He switched to the GOP when his legislative term ended at the beginning of this year. Jones, who is Black, has supported Trump’s false claims that the election was "stolen."
Last month Jones charged in a tweet that "If it weren’t for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States. We need courageous conservatives leading our state, not those afraid to stand up to the Radical Left."
Kemp re-election campaign manager Bobby Saparow, in a statement to Fox News, emphasized that "Vernon Jones is a lifelong Democrat, voted for Barack Obama, supported gun control, and voted against Georgia's heartbeat bill."
"He is not a Republican, and he certainly is not a conservative. Assuming he actually stays in the race, we look forward to contrasting Governor Kemp's successful conservative record with Vernon Jones' liberal, corrupt tenure in public life," Saparow added.
Jones entry into the race comes as GOP officials in two conservative counties in Georgia voted in recent days to censure Kemp.
Last week Trump once again criticized Kemp over Georgia's controversial voting measure that Kemp signed into law. Arguing that the measure didn't go far enough, Trump charged that "Kemp also caved to the radical left-wing woe mob who threatened to call him racist if hegot rid of weekend voting."
Besides Kemp, Trump has also repeatedly targeted Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, who also resisted the then-president’s requests to reverse the Peach State’s election results. Last month Trump endorsed a bid by GOP Rep. Jody Hice to oust Raffensperger in next year’s primary.