A little more than a week after endorsing Republican President Donald Trump for re-election, Democratic state Rep. Vernon Jones announced Wednesday that he would not complete his term — triggering a special election.
“Turn the lights off, I have left the plantation,” the controversial ex-DeKalb County CEO said in a statement.
Jones said he was not switching political parties but would work for Trump’s re-election.
“I don’t plan to leave the Democratic Party because somebody’s got to be in there to hold them accountable — hold them accountable to how they are treating black people (and) root out the bigotry,” Jones said on “The Rashad Richey Morning Show” shortly after announcing his resignation.
After a fiery and, at times, combative discussion, Jones ended the radio interview early, prompting Richey to say: “Hang up on this clown, please.”
What exactly happens next for his district, House District 91, is unclear. Jones was expected to formally submit his resignation Wednesday, as well as his withdrawal as a candidate from the June primary.
Jones was preparing for a Democratic primary rematch against Rhonda Taylor, a legal services staffer from Conyers, whom he defeated in 2016. There is no Republican on the ballot, making Taylor the presumptive representative in January.
“I think he made the right decision,” Taylor said of Jones’ resignation. “We appreciate his service and wish him luck in whatever endeavor he embarks upon next.”
The two elections are not connected.
Because the Legislature is still in session — suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic — state law requires Gov. Brian Kemp to announce a special election to complete Jones’ term within 10 days of the resignation. The special election must take place within the following 30 to 60 days.
Once his re-election candidacy is officially withdrawn, the June primary election continues without Jones. Because it is so close to the election, Jones will remain on the ballot, but any votes cast for him will not be considered.
Earlier today, I made the decision to not seek re-election to the Georgia House of Representatives.
I look forward, however, to continuing to serve my community in other ways and doing all I can to re-elect @realDonaldTrump.
We will Make America Great Again ????????
— Vernon Jones (@RepVernonJones) April 22, 2020
His resignation comes nearly a week after he told the AJC that he was endorsing Trump for reelection, a move that garnered heavy criticism from state Democrats.
“It’s very simple to me. President Trump’s handling of the economy, his support for historically black colleges and his criminal justice initiatives drew me to endorse his campaign,” Jones told the newspaper last week.
“There are a lot of African Americans who clearly see and appreciate he’s doing something that’s never been done before,” he added. “When you look at the unemployment rates among black Americans before the pandemic, they were at historic lows. That’s just a fact.”
The chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, Nikema Williams, sharply criticized Jones after his backing of Trump.
“Never has that been clearer than this moment, when he chose to stand with the racist president who has made an all-out assault on Black Americans, who has tried to rip away American health care, and who has failed our country in its greatest time of need during the most important election in our lifetimes,” Williams said. “Vernon Jones doesn’t speak for Georgians, and neither does Donald Trump — which is why Georgians will send him home in November 2020.”
According to Pew Research, Trump got 6 percent of the black vote in 2016, with Hillary Clinton garnering 91 percent.
-Atlanta Journal Constitution