Aug. 29—ACWORTH — Gubernatorial candidate Vernon Jones made a campaign stop at the Holiday Harbor Marina on Lake Allatoona Friday evening, and brought along a prominent friend: retired lieutenant general and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Jones, a former Democrat and state representative from DeKalb, joined the Republican Party in January, citing "harassment" from Democrats over his support for Donald Trump. Jones is now campaigning to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp, who is seeking reelection next year, saying the governor did not do enough to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
The idea that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump has animated the former president's diehard supporters, and was one of the central themes of Friday's speeches.
Dozens of lawsuits alleging such fraud have been tossed by state and federal courts for lack of evidence. In Georgia, Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state, insist there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the November 2020 elections. They point to the fact that ballots in Georgia were counted three times, each time showing a narrow victory for Joe Biden.
But those who believe the election was stolen haven't lost hope. In Arizona, Senate Republicans hired a contractor to audit some 2 million ballots from Maricopa County. That effort will, they believe, uncover election fraud and prove that Trump won the state. Similar efforts are being pushed in other states, including Georgia.
(Maricopa County's top elections official, a Republican, has slammed the audit, saying the contractors are biased and have no experience auditing elections, according to an article by the Arizona Republic.)
One of the audit's outspoken supporters, Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers, spoke at Friday's rally. She praised Jones' decision to visit Arizona to see the audit first-hand and said Arizona was "getting to the bottom of the truth in 2020."
"We better get it right now, and we better fix it now, because there won't be any 2022 (elections), because (Democrats) will steal it unless we fix it now," she said.
Flynn, after repeating many of Rogers' claims about election fraud, praised the gubernatorial candidate.
"He's not a polished politician, 'cause I can't stand those polished politicians," Flynn said, moments before introducing Jones. "That's not what we need in this country. We need fighters. ... Don't give a dime to the Republican national party of this country, don't give a dime to the Republican Party of Georgia. ... You look at the people that you can vote for. ... See if their words match their actions, and if they do, help them out. If they don't, throw them out."
At turns entertaining and outrageous, Jones began by quickly laying out his agenda: he would ban the use of critical race theory in Georgia schools, allow the unlicensed carry of firearms, ban the performance of gender reassignment surgery on minors, end the state income tax and "have, by executive order, a 159 county (election) audit."
Jones argued that he was the best candidate to take on Democrat and rumored gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in a general election; as a Black man, he said, he would help the Republican Party expand on the modest gains it made among minority voters in 2020.
"When I look at (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell and Brian Kemp, the Republican Party, the sun is setting on the Republican Party, because they can't grow the party," he said. "But when I look at Vernon Jones and others, the sun is rising on the Republican Party. That's why I have those liberals so d- — scared. They know we're going to take their vote. We're going to hold the Republican line, and we're going to break that Democrat line."
He also dabbled in name-calling and ad-hominem attacks on his opponent and prominent Democrats.
He mocked Abrams and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow for their appearance; referred to Vice President Kamala Harris as "Kabala Harris" because "she's part of a cabal"; called U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock "Raphael Warlock"; said the Democrats should rename their party "the New Black Pander Party"; and started a chant of "beat wimp Kemp."
'We need a governor who will fight for us'
Attendees pointed to Jones' platform and his self-styled image as a "fighter" when asked why they had come to Lake Allatoona on Friday.
"We need a governor who will fight for us, because now we don't have a governor who's going to fight for us," Carrollton's Keith Downs said. Downs said he supported Jones due to the former Democrat's fervent support of Trump.
"(Kemp) might have voted for Trump, but he put an (elections) system in that's a cheating system," he said. He said he was looking forward to the results of the Arizona audit, and would be willing to accept them even if they did not uncover mass fraud.
"If the numbers check out, we can all accept it, OK? We just want to know the truth," he said. "It's because so much disinformation has been applied to everything, that we want to know the truth."
Echoing Flynn's warning against donating to the Republican Party, Downs said he wasn't a fan.
"I just want what's right for this country," he said. "The Republicans are just as bad (as Democrats). ... Everybody is sold."
Pierre Casabonne, of Woodstock, said he liked Jones' comments on ending the state income tax, allowing the unlicensed carry of firearms and auditing ballots cast in each of Georgia's 159 counties. And he believes Jones will follow through on his promises.
Casabonne said he'd voted for Barack Obama in 2008 but had become disillusioned by the time the former president ran for reelection.
"When you commit yourself to something for your country ... (politicians), they say this, and they say that, 'I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that' — do it," he said. "Don't just sit there and give a speech."