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Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia
© Hill.TV

Former Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Democrat-turned-Republican, is launching a primary challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempCheney seen as merely first victim of Trump election attacks Three charged in Arbery killing plead not guilty to federal hate crimes Georgia official considering cutting federal unemployment to force people back to work MORE (R). 

Jones, who endorsed former President TrumpDonald TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE’s 2020 reelection bid before formally becoming a Republican in January, announced his campaign at a press conference outside the Georgia Capitol on Friday. 

“On this historical day, I am planting my flag on the hallowed grounds of the Georgia state Capitol,” Jones said. “I am officially announcing my candidacy for governor of the great state of Georgia.

Once seen as a staunch Trump ally, Kemp became a target of the former president’s ire last year when he rejected Trump’s pleas to overturn the results of the presidential election in Georgia.

Jones is hoping to capitalize on the incumbent governor’s perceived disloyalty to Trump, who has already vowed to support a primary challenge to Kemp.

“Right now, those of you who feel you have been not listened to, those of you who feel frustration. I feel your pain. For those of you who feel your voices weren’t heard, for those of you who feel the incumbent governor didn’t fight for you, a new day has dawned.”

The budding Georgia Republican gubernatorial primary is expected to be one of the highest-profile tests of Trump’s influence over the GOP in his post-presidential life.

Democrats are also expected to contest the governor’s mansion aggressively next year, with one of the state’s most prominent Democrats, Stacey Abrams, seen as a top contender for the job. Jones called out Abrams directly on Friday, declaring: “I will beat Stacey Abrams.”

Trump has sought to flex his political muscles in a wide array of primary matchups in recent months. But he is said to have a particular fixation with Georgia, a state that became the epicenter of his efforts to reverse his electoral loss late last year.

Trump hasn’t yet endorsed in the state’s GOP gubernatorial primary. But in his remarks on Friday, Jones made clear that he wants to be Trump’s preferred candidate in the race.

He blamed Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another Republican who broke with Trump’s claims that the election was stolen from him, for the former president’s loss in Georgia, as well as for two GOP losses in a pair of January Senate runoff elections in the state.

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Jones said that Kemp and Raffensperger should resign.

“As a result of the governor’s fear of Stacey Abrams and the left, he cost us two Republican U.S. Senate seats and the president’s reelection,” Jones said.

“His failed leadership and unwillingness to fight election integrity left us Joe BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE, Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Lawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats House Republican: 'Absolutely bogus' for GOP to downplay Jan. 6 MORE and Cryin’ Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE cramming their...liberal and their socialist policies down our throats,” he added, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE (D-N.Y.).  “I can’t stand these liberals,” he said. “They make me sick.”

Jones also sought to explain his recent switch to the GOP, saying that despite his longtime affiliation with the Democratic Party, he has “always had conservative values.”

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me,” he said. “Why? Because of my conservative values that were instilled in me by my parents and my community.”