Vernon Angus Jones (born October 31, 1960) is an American politician who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001 and from 2017 to 2021.

Vernon Jones
Jones in 2021
Member of the
Georgia House of Representatives
In office
January 9, 2017 – January 11, 2021
Preceded byDee Dawkins-Haigler
Succeeded byRhonda Taylor
Constituency91st district
In office
January 1, 1993 – January 1, 2001
Preceded bySidney Jones
Succeeded byWalter Ronnie Sailor Jr.
Constituency71st district
Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County
In office
January 1, 2001 – January 1, 2009
Preceded byLiane Levetan[1]
Succeeded byBurrell Ellis[2]
Personal details
Vernon Angus Jones

(1960-10-31) October 31, 1960 (age 63)
Laurel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (2021–present)
Other political
Democratic (before 2021)
EducationNorth Carolina Central University (BA)

Between his periods in the Georgia House of Representatives, Jones was chief executive officer of DeKalb County from 2001 to 2009. He has also run unsuccessfully for the United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, and DeKalb County Sheriff.

Jones began his political career as a Democrat, but became a Republican in 2021 after endorsing Donald Trump for re-election and speaking at the 2020 Republican National Convention.[3][4] Jones initially ran for Governor of Georgia in the Republican primary against incumbent Brian Kemp in the 2022 Georgia gubernatorial election before running unsuccessfully for the U.S. House.[5]

Early life and business career edit

Born in Laurel Hill, North Carolina, Jones grew up on a farm in rural North Carolina.[6] His father was a veteran of World War II who worked in a mill; his mother and siblings worked on the family farm. Jones was the fifth of six children, with four brothers and a sister.[7] He attended North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, and became a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity there, before graduating with a B.A. in business administration in 1983.[6] Jones also completed the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Executive Program.[8]

Jones began his career in the telecommunications industry, first working with MCI Communications (which later became MCI Inc.) and later BellSouth Corporation.[6] At BellSouth, he was part of a team that established wireless communications in Montevideo, Uruguay.[8] Jones has served on the DeKalb Board of Health, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the DeKalb Library Board, the DeKalb Pension Board, and the Board of Visitors for Emory University and North Carolina Central University.[9]

Political career edit

Georgia House of Representatives edit

Jones was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1992, representing District SH 071, succeeding Sidney Pope Jones Jr.[10] Jones served from 1993 to 2001, during which time he was a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Insurance Committee, and the Health & Ecology Committee,[11] as well as the Banking Committee, and a special Judiciary Committee.[12] Jones also chaired the Chairman of the Health Professions Subcommittee. Among the proposals Jones sponsored or co-sponsored in the Georgia House was a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag emblem from Georgia State flag, and a bill that would have banned minors from purchasing music with explicit lyrics.[7] Jones did not stand for reelection in 2000, instead running for DeKalb County CEO, and was succeeded in the Georgia House by Ron Sailor.[13]

DeKalb County CEO edit

Jones was elected as chief executive officer of DeKalb County, Georgia, in 2000, winning 64% of the vote, and was re-elected in 2004 with 54% of the vote. Jones is the first African American to serve as CEO of the county.[6] In April 2001, shortly after Jones became CEO, he voted, along with five other DeKalb County Commissioners, to offer life and health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of gay and unmarried County employees. DeKalb was the first county in Georgia to offer such benefits.[14] During his administration, DeKalb County established the first local Homeland Security Office in 2001.[15] He requested and received Congressional designation of Arabia Mountain as a National Heritage Area.[6] Jones was also primarily responsible for creation of DeKalb County's first economic development department, which generated $4 billion in new investments.[7]

However, Jones's term as DeKalb County CEO was also known for controversies and accusations of improprieties. Shortly after taking office Jones went back on his campaign pledge to keep the homestead exemption sales tax in place.[16] He was criticized for vetoing pay raises for police officers.[17] In January 2005, the Georgia State Ethics Commission sanctioned Jones for campaign contribution limit violations in his 2004 reelection campaign. Under a Consent Order, Jones returned all excess contributions and personally paid a $7,500 civil penalty.[18] Jones apologized and stated that changes in campaign finance laws between the initial election and the run-off election were the reason for his acceptance of nineteen improper campaign contributions.[7] He was initially accused of illegally using campaign funds to promote the 2005 bond referendum, but the State Ethics Commission "found no reasonable grounds" for the complaint.[19]

2008 United States Senate campaign edit

Jones ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, but was defeated 60% to 40% in the 2008 run-off for Georgia's Democratic U.S. Senate primary.[20]

On March 23, 2007, Jones announced he was running for the United States Senate against incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss. Jones was criticized by his chief rival Jim Martin over his more conservative politics and past support for George W. Bush.[21] Jones' campaign was also marred by two new controversies. Jones sent out a flier in which he appeared in a digitally altered picture next to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama with the words "Yes We Can." However, Obama himself stated he not only never posed with Jones, he did not endorse Jones or any other candidate for the Democratic nomination for Senate.[22] In response, Jones blamed his "liberal opponents backed by the liberal media" for trying to ruin his campaign.[23] Jones was also criticized for the appearance of the tagline "Vote Vernon Jones for GA Senate" on tickets, produced using county funds, for the Dekalb County Blues and Jazz Festival. The company who printed the tickets, supporters of Jones' campaign, took responsibility for the incident; saying that they were unaware campaign finance laws made such an action illegal.[24]

In the July 15, 2008 Democratic primary election, Jones won a plurality of votes in the Democratic primary. However, Georgia law requires a majority; if no majority is reached by a candidate, the two top vote-getters must face one another in a runoff. On August 5, 2008, Jones lost the run-off election to Jim Martin by a margin of 20 points. Jones unexpectedly lost to Martin in his home base of Dekalb County.[25] Jones had lost support within the Black community before the runoff election, and only captured two-thirds of the Black vote in the head-to-head match up against Martin. The Black turnout in the run-off was also substantially lower than the initial primary election, further hurting Jones' chances in the runoff.[26]

2008 Georgia U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Election[27]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Vernon Jones 199,026 40.4
Democratic Jim Martin 169,635 34.4
Democratic Dale Cardwell 79,181 16.1
Democratic Rand Knight 25,667 5.2
Democratic Josh Lanier 19,717 4.0
Turnout 493,226 100.0
2008 Georgia U.S. Senate Democratic Primary Election Runoff[28]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jim Martin 191,061 59.9 +25.5
Democratic Vernon Jones 127,993 40.1 -0.3
Turnout 319,054 100.0

Unsuccessful races edit

In 2010, Jones launched an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Congress in Georgia's 4th congressional district.[29] In 2014, Jones ran unsuccessfully for Sheriff of DeKalb County, GA. He lost to incumbent Sheriff Jeff Mann, 76% to 24%.[30]

Return to the Georgia House edit

In March 2016, Jones filed to run for Georgia House of Representatives, this time in House District 91, an open seat vacated by Dee Dawkins-Haigler.[31] In the May 2016 Democratic primary election, Jones came within sixty votes of an outright victory, but was forced into a runoff election with Rhonda Taylor.[32] Jones won the July runoff election[33] and in November 2016, once again won election to the Georgia House, defeating Republican Carl Anuszczyk.[34]

Endorsement of Donald Trump and change in party affiliation edit

On April 14, 2020, Jones became the first state elected Democratic official in Georgia to endorse President Donald Trump's re-election bid.[35] Jones said he had no plans to switch political parties and cited Trump's "handling of the economy, his support for historically black colleges and his criminal justice initiatives" as reasons for his endorsement.[36] Jones was swiftly disowned by Georgia Democrats, many of whom announced support for Jones' primary challenger, Rhonda Taylor.[36][37] After initially saying he would resign from the state House, Jones reversed himself and said that he would complete the rest of his term, but would not seek reelection.[37][38]

Jones addressed the Republican National Convention in August 2020 and reiterated his endorsement of Trump.[39] On October 16, 2020, Jones spoke at a Trump rally in Macon, Georgia and crowd-surfed afterwards, which drew criticism as it occurred in the middle of a pandemic with a mostly maskless crowd.[40]

Jones promoted and perpetuated Trump's false claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election.[41][42] Jones withdrew his bid for re-election in 2020 and his term ended on January 11, 2021.[43] On January 6, 2021, he spoke at a rally in Washington D.C. before Trump's own speech, saying that he stands "firm for President Donald J. Trump" and announcing that he was changing his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican amid cheers from the audience; after the rally, the pro-Trump protesters stormed the United States Capitol Building.[44][45]

2022 Georgia gubernatorial election edit

In April 2021, Jones announced his intention to declare a run in the 2022 Georgia gubernatorial election against incumbent Republican Brian Kemp.[46] He was joined by 107th Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani and 40th New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik in his announcement. His announcement came after movement from Republicans to challenge Kemp in the challenge, after Donald Trump criticized Kemp for refusing to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.[47][48]

Jones trailed Kemp and former Senator David Perdue in the Republican primary polls. In February 2022, Jones announced that he was suspending his campaign and endorsed Perdue.[49]

2022 United States House campaign edit

After withdrawing his candidacy for governor, Jones announced he would run for the United States House of Representatives in Georgia's 10th congressional district. He entered the crowded Republican primary with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.[50] Jones pledged if elected, he would introduce articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.[51] In May 2022, Jones placed second in the primary behind trucking executive Mike Collins. Neither candidate got above 50% of the vote so the two advanced to a runoff in June 2022, which Jones lost.[52]

2022 Georgia's 10th congressional district Republican Primary Election[53]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Mike Collins 28,741 25.6
Republican Vernon Jones 24,165 21.5
Republican Timothy Barr 16,007 14.3
Republican Paul Broun 14,901 13.3
Republican David Curry 19,717 9.4
Republican Alan Sims 7,388 6.6
Republican Marc McMain 5,222 4.7
Republican Mitchell Swan 5,184 4.6
Turnout 112,165 100.0
2022 Georgia's 10th congressional district Republican Primary Election Runoff[54]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Mike Collins 30,536 74.4 +48.8
Republican Vernon Jones 10,469 25.5 +4.0
Turnout 41,005 100.0

Political positions edit

During his 2008 Senate campaign, Jones described himself as a "conservative Democrat" who favors "tough immigration laws and fiscal responsibility" as well as "supporter of gun rights and a staunch environmental advocate".[12] During his 2008 campaign, he stated that he opposed same-sex marriage.[55] rated Jones as a "Moderate Libertarian Conservative".[56] Jones stated that he voted for George W. Bush in 2004, and supported Barack Obama in 2008.[21] Jones donated $2,464 (~$4,072 in 2022) in two separate donations to the Georgia Republican Party in 2001.[57][58] In a 2014 press release, Jones characterized himself as an "advocate for limited government, security and protections for all citizens, balanced budgeting, ethical and efficient elections, [and] job creation".[59] Jones was the only Democratic cosponsor of the bill to legalize the concealed carry of firearms on Georgia's college campuses.[60]

Position on abortion edit

Jones has been unclear about his position on abortion. While he was a Democratic member of the Georgia House of Representatives, he voted against Georgia House Bill 481, an anti-abortion law that sought to prevent Georgia physicians from performing an abortion beyond six weeks.[61] He claimed at the time that he would become Speaker of the Georgia House because of the anti-abortion bill if Democrats took the House.[62] While running for the Republican nomination for the 2022 Georgia gubernatorial election, he told the University of Georgia's College Republicans organization that he voted against HB 481 because the bill did not go far enough to protect unborn children.[63]

LGBT civil rights edit

Jones opposes civil rights for LGBT people, having told Steve Bannon, "civil rights for Blacks, and gay rights for gays, are two different things."[64][65]

Controversies edit

Behavior toward women edit

According to a 2021 examination of Jones' record by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Jones has a long history of problematic behavior toward women, repeatedly accused of threatening, intimidating and harassing women in his personal and professional lives" over three decades.[66] The newspaper reviewed several previously reported episodes, as well as new details that had not previously been reported. In June 1989, three years before his election to the state legislature, Jones (who was then 28 years old) was arrested on a charge of pointing a pistol at a woman in her home in Doraville.[66] Criminal charges were dismissed, and Jones was ordered to attend anger management classes instead.[66]

In 2003, a community activist who complained about Jones' handling of flooding issues said that a disheveled Jones, accompanied by a plainclothes county police officer, confronted her in the evening at her home, approaching her with waving arms and clenched fists and mentioning her husband's recent death. The activist said that she felt threatened and intimidated by Jones.[66] A prosecutor declined to charge Jones with criminal trespass, but warned Jones to stay away from the activist. The activist sued Jones for trespassing and assault; the case was settled out of court on confidential terms in 2009.[66]

In 2004, DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer made a complaint to Decatur police that Jones "deliberately walked into her and made hard shoulder-to-shoulder contact" after a heated public meeting; she did not pursue charges against Jones, but accused him of verbally abusing commissioners and staff and making "derogatory and degrading comments."[66]

A woman accused Jones of raping her in late December 2004 at a party at his home.[66] Before detectives could take the statement of the woman, the police chief of DeKalb telephoned Jones to inform him of the allegation; a Georgia Attorney General's Office investigation concluded that the chief's call was inappropriate. The woman's name was later leaked to the media, and in 2005, the woman declined to press charges, citing the emotional distress that it would entail.[66][67] Jones was not prosecuted, and the allegation did not cause him significant political damage.[66]

Security detail expenses edit

In 2003, Jones was investigated by a grand jury for his security detail, which cost $800,000 a year.[7] The cost of the detail far surpassed other county officials.[68] The grand jury investigation found that Jones' five-officer protective detail was "a very expensive decoration" but not unlawful.[69]

Jury finding of hostile work environment edit

In 2004, two current (Michael Bryant, John Drake) and two former (Becky Kelley, Herbert Lowe) senior employees of the Parks Department at the time filed suit against Jones (as CEO of the county), as well as three of Jones' subordinates (former parks director Marilyn Boyd Drew, his former executive assistant Richard Stogner, and Morris Williams), and DeKalb County. The plaintiffs alleged racial discrimination, or in the case of Lowe, "retaliation for refusing to assist in racial discrimination". Kelly, Bryant, and Drake were white, while Lowe was black.[70][71]

The defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds of qualified immunity. In 2006, U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey Jr. denied their motion, holding that the law does not allow "a public official defendant to engage in calculated racial discrimination costumed in a racially neutral garb of administrative actions so it can masquerade as a qualified immunity defense".[70] On November 21, 2006, Duffey ruled that the case could go forward to a jury trial.[72] In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected an appeal by Jones and other defendants, upholding the denial of summary judgment. Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat, writing for the court, wrote in the ruling that DeKalb County had "embarked on a wholesale plan to replace its white county managers with African Americans" and that Jones had "devised the plan and monitored its execution".[70]

At a jury trial in 2010, the plaintiffs' attorneys called witnesses from across county government in an attempt to demonstrate a countywide policy of discrimination. Jones denied any discrimination.[71] Testimony revealed that during the first five years of Jones' term in office, the number of white senior county managers had dropped from 61 to 57, and the number of African-American senior county managers had risen from 33 to 61.[73]

On April 2, 2010, the jury awarded damages to two of the four plaintiffs (to Bryant, who died before the trial, and to John Drake). The jury found DeKalb County liable for intentional discrimination. The jury found that Jones, Stogner, and Drew "created and maintained a hostile work environment"; they were ordered to pay $185,000 in damages, which was lower than the $2 million requested by plaintiffs.[71] Jones was ordered to personally pay $27,750 in damages,[74] which was covered by DeKalb County's liability insurance policy.[75]

While the verdict was initially hailed as a victory for Jones, the judge later awarded the plaintiffs an additional $1.9 million in legal fees.[75] In a post-trial settlement, DeKalb County ultimately agreed to pay the plaintiffs a total of $1.3 million for legal fees and damages.[76]

References edit

  1. ^ "Liane Levetan: A Guide to Her Papers at Georgia State University Library". Georgia State University Library. August 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  2. ^ Stuart, Gwynedd (November 4, 2010). "DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis isn't your typical politician: That's part of his problem". Creative Loafing. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  3. ^ Lemon, Jason (January 6, 2021). "Georgia State Rep. Vernon Jones Announces He's Joined GOP, Been Fighting 'Demon Democrats'". Newsweek. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  4. ^ Olson, Tyler (April 22, 2020). "Democratic Georgia rep who endorsed Trump resigns after backlash: report". Fox News. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  5. ^ Scanlan, Quinn (April 16, 2021). "Former Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones to challenge Gov. Brian Kemp in GOP primary". ABC News.
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  24. ^ Galloway, Jim (July 22, 2008). "Political Note on Tickets Cause Stir". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  25. ^ Rachel Kapochunas (August 5, 2008). "Martin Wins Georgia Dem Runoff, Will Challenge Sen. Chambliss". Congressional Quarterly.
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  30. ^ Chidi, George (July 23, 2014). "Vernon Jones And The Politics of Drinking Clorox". Peach Pundit. Archived from the original on May 2, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
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  38. ^ Kenne, Tanasia (April 23, 2020). "GA state Rep. Vernon Jones reverses resignation". Macon Telegraph.
  39. ^ Pramuk, Jacob (August 24, 2020). "Here's the speaker lineup for the first night of the Republican National Convention". CNBC. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
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  44. ^ Toone, Stephanie (January 6, 2021). "Protestors backing Trump roll into capitol to cheer him on protesters". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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  54. ^ "General Primary/Special Election Runoff". GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE. June 21, 2022. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  55. ^ Andre in Atlanta (June 29, 2008). "Democrats Debate: Jim Martin Opposes Gay Marriage". Peach Pundit. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
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  61. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System".
  62. ^ @bluestein (March 29, 2019). "@TrammellBob @Rosie Now happening:..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  63. ^ "Vernon Jones clashes with UGA students during visit". April 22, 2021.
  64. ^ Papenfuss, Mary (April 8, 2022). "Trump-Backed Vernon Jones Says Civil Rights Don't Apply To Gay People Because They 'Can Change'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  65. ^ Cole, Brendan (April 8, 2022). "Vernon Jones Says Being Gay Is a Choice—'They Can Actually Change'". Newsweek. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  66. ^ a b c d e f g h i Judd, Alan (May 14, 2021). "Vying for Trump's support, Vernon Jones faces history of misconduct toward women". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  67. ^ Judd, Alan (November 25, 2005). "Rape claim vs. CEO unfolds in DA's file". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
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  69. ^ Torpy, Bill (February 14, 2010). "Kinder, gentler Vernon Jones set sights on Congress". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  70. ^ a b c United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit (July 31, 2009). "Bryant v. Jones (No. 06-16591) Decision". Leagle, Inc. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  71. ^ a b c Scott, Jeffry (April 2, 2010). "DeKalb discrimination suit: Jones ordered to pay". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  72. ^ "Discrimination lawsuit against DeKalb County to go to trial". Dalton Daily Citizen. Associated Press. November 25, 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  73. ^ Dewan, Shaila (April 1, 2010). "Georgia: Award in Reverse Discrimination Suit". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  74. ^ Belcher, Richard (April 1, 2010). "Vernon Jones Loses Discrimination Case In Split Verdict". WSB-TV Channel 2. Archived from the original on October 31, 2017. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  75. ^ a b Ffrench-Parker, Jennifer (April 9, 2010). "Jones: Discrimination lawsuits outcome a victory for county". CrossRoads News. Decatur, GA. Retrieved April 26, 2015.[dead link]
  76. ^ "DeKalb County To Pay $1.3M In Race Discrimination Lawsuit". Georgia Newsday. Associated Press. April 19, 2011. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2015.

External links edit

Georgia House of Representatives
Preceded by
Sidney Jones
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 71st district

Succeeded by
Ron Sailor
Preceded by Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 91st district

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Liane Levetan
Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County
Succeeded by