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Vernon Jones leaves Georgia gov race to run for Congress

February 8, 2022 GMT
Vernon Jones, candidate for Georgia governor, speaks to supporters during former president Donald Trump's Save America rally in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. Jones announced on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2022 that he’s running for Congress  in Georgia’s 10th District as a Republican after dropping out of the governor’s race the day before. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, file)
Vernon Jones, candidate for Georgia governor, speaks to supporters during former president Donald Trump's Save America rally in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. Jones announced on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2022 that he’s running for Congress  in Georgia’s 10th District as a Republican after dropping out of the governor’s race the day before. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, file)
Vernon Jones, candidate for Georgia governor, speaks to supporters during former president Donald Trump's Save America rally in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. Jones announced on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2022 that he’s running for Congress  in Georgia’s 10th District as a Republican after dropping out of the governor’s race the day before. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, file)
Vernon Jones, candidate for Georgia governor, speaks to supporters during former president Donald Trump's Save America rally in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. Jones announced on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2022 that he’s running for Congress in Georgia’s 10th District as a Republican after dropping out of the governor’s race the day before. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, file)
Vernon Jones, candidate for Georgia governor, speaks to supporters during former president Donald Trump's Save America rally in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. Jones announced on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2022 that he’s running for Congress in Georgia’s 10th District as a Republican after dropping out of the governor’s race the day before. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, file)

ATLANTA (AP) — Vernon Jones, who dropped out of Georgia’s governor’s race on Monday at Donald Trump’s behest, confirmed Tuesday that he’s entering the crowded Republican primary in the state’s 10th Congressional District.

His switch came days after Trump pledged to endorse Jones in a congressional race if he quit the governor’s race to clear the Republican field for former Sen. David Perdue, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Jones announced his choice of the 10th district on social media and in an interview with Fox News. The open seat, stretching from Atlanta’s suburban fringe to the college town of Athens, has drawn more than 10 other Republicans already.

Jones listed his priorities as preventing federal election legislation, doing more to secure borders and protecting “medical freedoms.” Anticipating attacks from other Republicans, he tweeted: “Hell, they even call me the Black Donald Trump! Bring it on, liars!”

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“Look, I’m a conservative, I have traditional values,” he told Fox News. “The left has taken this country too far to the left. That’s why I identify with the 10th Congressional District. Those people have values like mine, conservative values, faith-based, hard working, entrepreneurial spirit, things of that nature. We have to get back to that.”

Jones was a Democratic state representative on the outs with his party when he shot to prominence as an African American who endorsed Trump’s reelection campaign. The 61-year-old served multiple terms in the Georgia House, sandwiching a troubled turn in charge of Atlanta’s suburban DeKalb County, before proclaiming himself a Republican in January 2021 as his last term expired.

He built his campaign for governor around Trump’s falsehoods that Georgia’s election was stolen. He promised another audit of the 2020 presidential election and to replace Georgia’s electronic voting system, often calling the election the “dead cat on the end of the line.”

The seat is open because U.S. Rep. Jody Hice is stepping down to run for Georgia secretary of state with Trump’s backing. The fundraising leader has been Mike Collins, the son of former U.S. Rep. Mac Collins. He took immediate aim at Jones, noting allegations that Jones had raped a woman in 2004. Jones hotly denied that, and charges were later dropped.

“The voters of GA10 don’t want a corrupt, carpetbagging, lifelong Democrat from DeKalb County accused of rape representing them,” Collins tweeted. “They want a pro-Trump, America 1st fighter who’s lived, worked and raised a family in the district — it’s why we’re going to win.”

Jones shrugged off the attacks, tweeting, “The same Big Lies and Fat Smears used against Donald J. Trump in 2015 and 2016 are used against me. I’m honored but do better, @MikeCollinsGA”. “Hell, they even call me the Black Donald Trump! Bring it on, liars!”

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed from New York.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.