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Georgia state lawmaker bucks Democrats with Trump endorsement

Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones (D) broke with his party on Tuesday by endorsing President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE’s reelection bid, citing the president's handling of the economy and support for historically black colleges.

Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was not switching parties but praised Trump’s policies on certain issues.

“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.

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“There are a lot of African Americans who clearly see and appreciate he’s doing something that’s never been done before,” Jones added. “When you look at the unemployment rates among black Americans before the pandemic, they were at historic lows. That’s just a fact.”

In a statement, Jones highlighted Trump’s criminal justice reforms, such as the First Step Act and granting clemency to Alice Marie Johnson.

“A generation of African American families have been devastated by draconian policies that Joe BidenJoe BidenHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Overnight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings MORE supported and voted for when he served in the U.S. Senate,” Jones said in a statement to CBS 46. “A change was needed and President Trump took action.”

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Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of Georgia’s Democratic Party, condemned Jones in a fiery response, calling him an “embarrassment” and someone who does “not stand for our values.”

“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 in a statement. "Vernon Jones doesn’t speak for Georgians, and neither does Donald Trump — which is why Georgians will send him home in November 2020."

Jones has been a controversial figure in DeKalb County, a heavily Democratic district, since he launched his political career in the 1990s and entered the Georgia House, The Journal-Constitution noted.

In 2000, he became the first African American elected as the county’s chief executive. He was accused of bid-rigging and theft in 2013 related to his work as county executive, but the district attorney at the time said there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

Jones returned to the state Capitol in 2016 after making unsuccessful runs for U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and DeKalb sheriff.

He reportedly has a history of butting heads with his Democratic colleagues.

A 2008 article from the Savannah Morning News noted that Jones described himself as an “independent thinker and a conservative Democrat who supports faith-based initiatives, tough immigration laws and fiscal responsibility.”

He reportedly kept pictures of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in his office, voted twice for former President George W. Bush and then “enthusiastically embraced” former President Obama’s White House bid.

Jones's endorsement of Trump came the same day that Obama endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.

Last month, a city councilwoman accused Jones of making transphobic comments against her during a discussion at the state Capitol. Stephe Koontz, Georgia’s only transgender elected official, alleged that Jones ranted “about how LGBTQ rights are not civil rights.”

“You might be a man one day and a woman the next, I don’t even know who you are,” Koontz quoted Jones as saying.

Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his “recollection of the conversation is different.”