- Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation about his decision to support President Donald Trump for re-election, and how that endorsement was received by his Democratic colleagues.
- Jones pointed to Trump’s work on criminal justice reform, support for historically black colleges, and also economic opportunity zones that he says have helped African-American communities.
- Jones said the Democratic Party immediately tried to censor him and broke party bylaws by endorsing his opponent. He says he will remain a Democrat to “agitate” them.
A Democratic lawmaker who endorsed President Donald Trump over presumptive Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden opened up in an interview about what led to his decision, and also the immediate backlash he received from his party.
Vernon Jones, the state representative for Georgia’s 91st House District since 2017, surprised the country when he announced his support for Trump’s 2020 re-election bid. The decision not only came as a shock to his colleagues in the Democratic Party, but perplexed those who knew the partisan makeup of his district, which votes overwhelmingly Democratic.
However, Jones suggested the choice in November couldn’t be more clear.
“We haven’t had a president like Trump in my lifetime as far as I’m concerned,” Jones said to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “He does what he says he’s going to do.”
The longtime Georgia politician pointed to three major issues that ultimately led him to endorse the current Republican president: criminal justice reform, support for historically black colleges, and opportunity zones — all initiatives taken up by the Trump administration.
Trump passed the First Step Act in 2018, which allows non-violent criminals to be released from prison earlier by way of increased “earned time credits.” The president signed into law “groundbreaking” legislation in late 2019 that now provides permanent funding to historically black colleges and universities.
Additionally, the administration’s creation of opportunity zone tax breaks has helped revitalize minority neighborhoods across the country, Jones said.
All of these issues, Jones said, had a personal impact on his community.
“I have personal friends and family members throughout my community who were impacted by that,” Jones told the DCNF, and added that he is a graduate of North Carolina Central University, an historically black college that, like many others, does not have to fight for funding every year now because of the legislation signed by Trump.
Jones not only spoke about his support for Trump’s agenda, but also compared it to that of former Biden, who is now the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. The Democratic lawmaker took particular umbrage with a crime bill spearheaded by Biden in 1994 that led to increased incarceration rates for African-Americans.
“He likes to talk about Republicans putting you in chains, but Joe Biden did worse. Joe Biden put them in jail and stripped them of their livelihood,” Jones said. “At the same time, President Trump has come along and let many family members out.”
Jones officially endorsed Trump on April 14, and since that time, he said the reaction from his Democratic colleagues has been nothing short of vicious.
“When I exercised my constitutional right to freedom of speech, they attacked it. They tried to scare me and others by censoring us, wanting to silence us,” he said. “That’s voter suppression.”
“I am a free-thinking, independent, conservative black man. The left-wing of the Democratic Party, they were mortified by that. They couldn’t believe it,” he continued. “The names that I was called. I was like ‘what in the world is this?'”
The backlash wasn’t confined to just public rhetoric. The Democratic Party chairs of Dekalb and Rockdale counties — Jones’s district covers both — censored him. The chair of the Georgia Democratic Party endorsed his primary opponent, Rhonda Taylor, an action that Jones said was a direct violation of the party’s bylaws.
The state lawmaker said he is a victim of a “bigoted” double standard by the Democratic Party, and pointed to the late Democratic Georgia Sen. Zell Miller’s endorsement of President George W. Bush in 2004. Miller was a conservative, white Democrat who served as a governor and later as a senator.
“No one kicked [Miller] out of the party, or attempted to kick him out of the party, or attempted to silence him. He even spoke at the Republican convention. So how is it that Zell Miller can do it, but I can’t do it?” he asked.
“Liberal white people do not want blacks thinking for themselves. Conservative white people, I’ve found, they want you to think for yourself, they want you to cast down your bucket wherever and go forth chasing the American Dream.”
Jones said examples of the Democratic Party suppressing African-American lawmakers extended out of the state, and pointed to Michigan state Rep. Karen Whitsett.
Whitsett garnered immense criticism from her party for saying Trump saved her life after he publicized the possible use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus patients.
“She contacted me when she heard that I had stepped down, and she started sharing with me what she went through just for thanking the president. Not endorsing, but just thanking him. The harassment she went through, the censorship,” Jones said of Whitsett’s troubles.
Upon being attacked by his party colleagues, Jones had initially opted to resign from office, but after receiving an avalanche of support from people across the country, he chose to finish his term. He is not, however, running for re-election, and his term will conclude by the end of this year.
Throughout the interview, Jones showcased his moderate legacy — including his propensity to work with Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly.
He noted his past clashes with the progressive wing of the party regarding his support for traditional marriage, and more recently his opposition to giving out stimulus money to illegal aliens while many American families are struggling under the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
As for his party affiliation, Jones says he will remain a Democrat in order to press them on these issues.
“I am going to agitate this party until the end. I am going to elbow them until this so-called big tent of diversity, inclusiveness, is going to value and appreciate, and prioritize a black man or a black woman that is independent thinking, and has conservative leans,” he said. “Right now, that tent has left us.” (RELATED: Stacey Abrams’s Group Will Target Democrat Who Endorsed President Trump)
In the meantime, Jones says that he is going to do everything he can to see Trump re-elected to the White House.
“My number one priority is to help Donald J. Trump get re-elected and wherever and however he needs me. I’m putting my country before my party, and I want to help him get re-elected,” he said.
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