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Vernon Jones, a Democratic state lawmaker in Georgia, grabbed nationwide headlines on April 14 when he chose to endorse President Donald Trump’s reelection bid. His continued support of the Republican president is one of the many reasons Rhonda Taylor has decided to run against him.
Jones, who represents parts of DeKalb and Rockdale counties, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) that he believes Trump is a transformative president who has helped African Americans, veterans and farmers.
“It’s very simple to me,” he told the AJC. “President Trump’s handling of the economy, his support for historically Black colleges and his criminal justice initiative drew me to endorse his campaign.”
The polarizing Democrat told the newspaper that he had no plans to switch parties, but suggested he could switch parties in a video posted to Twitter on April 15.
In a statement to The North Star, Taylor called Jones’ endorsement of the president “a disgrace.” State Senator Nikema Williams, who serves as the state party’s chair, was also quick to call Jones out for being an “embarrassment” in a statement to the AJC.
Meanwhile, at least three top Democratic leaders announced their support for Jones’ challenger. House Minority Leader Bob Trammell told the AJC that he planned to financially support Taylor's bid to unseat Jones.
Jones may also face further repercussions from his party. The DeKalb County Democratic party is considering whether to officially reprimand Jones or formally endorse Taylor.
“We do not stand for President Trump,” John Jackson, the county party’s chair, said. “It’s Jones’ right to vote for who he wants, but when you get elected as a Democrat, you’re a part of the party leadership.”
The swift rebuke of Jones has meant a surge in support for his challenger. Fair Fight, the voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams, told the AJC that its political arm plans to support Taylor’s primary challenge.
“No supporter of a racist president who is actively trying to suppress the votes of eligible Americans will receive the backing of Fair Fight,” Fair Fight spokesman Seth Bringman told the newspaper. Fair Fight did not respond to TNS’ request for additional comment.
Who is Rhonda Taylor?
This is not the first time Taylor has attempted to unseat Jones in House District 91. She narrowly lost to the former chief executive of DeKalb County in 2016.
“I have been fighting for working people all my life, including Georgia HD91, where I have lived for many years,” Taylor told TNS. “As a small business owner, I learned how to advocate and fought legislation that would have hurt my industry. We won and I have spent the last 25 years as a leader in the community. It’s a natural move for me to step into this position with my vested interest in the community and years of experience.”
“My integrity and genuine concern for the community sets me apart [from Jones] as a person,” Taylor told TNS, sounding like a seasoned politician.
Taylor cited several pieces of legislation that Jones has supported that she would work to dismantle. Jones has allied himself with Republican lawmakers throughout his tenure, AJC reported.
“As a future legislator, I will fight to repeal Campus Carry and HB481—the anti-abortion bill. [Jones] supported both those bills and has also supported criminal justice legislation that hurts the voters in HD91 and around Georgia,” Taylor said. “I will also fight to protect Georgians who identify as LGBTQ.”
Taylor told TNS that she was also dedicated to making sure that Georgians have access to affordable healthcare. When asked what some of the top issues she hopes to tackle if elected, she responded that she will aim to “fight for an economy that works for working people” and to address “safety in our schools with common sense gun legislation.”
This election cycle, Taylor will also make sure to highlight Jones’ continued support of the Republican president. She told the AJC that every resident in the district should know about Jones’ feelings about Trump, adding, “We’ll do everything in our power to make sure all 56,000 of them get mailers, calls, texts and postcards to remind them of this endorsement.”
How to Support
Jones and Taylor will face off in the state’s Democratic primary on June 9. Taylor is currently accepting contributions on her campaign website and has also urged voters to get involved in her campaign activities.
“We also have opportunities for volunteers to phone bank, send text messages and write postcards to voters,” she told TNS. “Please reach out to the campaign to join our movement in HD91!”
To learn more about Fair Fight and the work they’re doing to fight voter suppression, visit their website here.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.