Democratic Georgia State Rep. Vernon Jones announced his immediate resignation Wednesday, triggering a special election for his seat. His shocking move jolted the political world on both sides of the aisle.
He resigned after attacks and threats of retribution from state party leaders kept escalating following his endorsement of President Donald Trump’s bid for reelection last Tuesday.
“Turn the lights off, I have left the plantation,” he said in a statement. “Someone else can occupy that suite. Therefore, I intend not to complete my term effective April 22, 2020.”
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 Wednesday on The Rashad Richey Morning Show.
“Earlier today, I made the decision to not seek re-election to the Georgia House of Representatives,” Jones wrote on Twitter.
He followed up with a tweetstorm attacking the party for its vitriol against him. “I don’t care what the Democrat Party does to me,” Jones tweeted defiantly. “What are they going to do? Spank me? I will never apologize for my convictions.”
“I’m not surprised that the Democratic Party has chosen to rent out my suite on the plantation to my opponent.”
“The modern day Democratic Party has become more about defending the interests of illegals than it has the actual American people,” he added. “I take issue with that.”
“I’ve seen more Democrats attack me for my decision to endorse @realDonaldTrump than ask me why. They’ve used and abused folks in my community for far too long, taking our votes for granted. Black Americans are waking up. An uprising is near,” he predicted.
Jones had represented the state’s 91st House District — a Democratic stronghold with a minority population comprising more than 75 percent. It includes parts of DeKalb and Rockdale counties and Democratic parties in both counties had announced plans to censure Jones.
The DeKalb County Democratic party had been considering official action to discipline him by issuing a reprimand or formally endorsing his opponent, Rhonda Taylor.
“We are going to take every step we can under our bylaws,” said John Jackson, the county party’s chair.
“We do not stand for President Trump. 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.”
Chairwoman of Georgia’s Democratic Party Nikema Williams called Jones an “embarrassment.”
“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 last Tuesday.
“Vernon Jones doesn’t speak for Georgians, and neither does Donald Trump — which is why Georgians will send him home in November 2020,” said Williams.
Jones praised Trump for his economic policies, criminal justice reform, and his support for historically black colleges. He accused presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden of supporting policies that devastated a generation of African American families.
Jones became the first state elected Democratic official in Georgia to endorse the president’s re-election bid. He voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and supported Barack Obama in 2008.
“President Trump is increasing his support in the Black community because people know that it was under his policies that Black Americans achieved such great success before the economy was artificially interrupted,” Jones said in a statement provided by the White House.
“Black voters also appreciate the President’s unprecedented funding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and his commitment to criminal justice reform.”
The veteran lawmaker has been a fixture in Georgia political life for nearly thirty years. He gained national prominence as chief executive officer of Dekalb County from 2001 to 2009. The county is home to some of the wealthiest and most influential African Americans in the state.