Republican voters will choose between Mike Collins and Vernon Jones for the Republican nomination in the 10th Congressional District to replace Rep. Jody Hice, who lost his bid to oust Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The two candidates clashed at an Atlanta Press Club debate last week over who’s really a Democrat.
Jones—a lifelong Democrat until he switched parties in 2020 and became a favorite of Donald Trump—repeatedly asked Collins whether his father was a Democrat. Mac Collins, a longtime Republican congressman, was elected to the Butts County Commission as a Democrat in the 1970s but switched parties in 1980. Mike Collins, however, refused to answer the question and turned it around on Jones.
“His dad was a Democrat,” Jones said. “He was raised as a Democrat. It’s in his blood.” Collins replied: “[Jones] has spent his entire life as a Democrat, and his entire life as a corrupt career politician.”
Jones also accused Collins of soliciting Democrats’ support in a 2014 runoff with Hice, which Collins called “a lie.”
Jones bragged about attending an NRA conference in Texas in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting and questioned why Collins did not go. “Unfortunately, my opponent can’t raise money in the district, so what does he do? He goes out there to con people into giving him money,” Collins said.
Meanwhile, Collins wanted to know why Jones voted in the Democratic presidential primary and why he voted against the “heartbeat bill,” a state law passed in 2019 and later ruled unconstitutional that bans most abortions after six weeks. Jones said he voted for Trump in the general election and that the abortion bill wasn’t strict enough. “I took the same position Georgia Right to Life took, which is life starts at conception, not at six weeks,” Jones said.
At the time, Jones was a Democrat representing DeKalb County in the state House of Representatives. “This is just obvious,” Collins said. “Vernon Jones is a con man… A corrupt 30-year politician.” Collins added that he is “100 percent pro-life,” with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.
Jones also attacked Collins for accepting a $1 million Paycheck Protection Act loan during the pandemic and accused him of pocketing it. Collins said his trucking company had 100 employees who needed food on the table, and in turn accused Jones of taking two PPP loans despite not having any employees.
When Collins referred to “Jan. 6 political prisoners,” Jones said he was there when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory and asked Collins why he was not. Collins said he caught COVID while serving as a vote-counting observer for the Dec. 30 runoff. “You did a fake quarantine,” Jones told him. “You hid.”
That race to the right on the Republican side gives Jessica Fore a glimmer of hope that a Democrat could pull out a surprise victory in the heavily conservative-leaning district. If nominated, the Athens resident said she will try to put together a coalition of Democrats, independents and Republican voters who are disillusioned with Trump.
“In the Georgia 10th, we wound up with Collins and Jones, who were just arguing about who was Trumpiest,” Fore said. “That’s the only way a Democrat can win.”
Fore won 20.3% of the vote in the primary, second to Sandersville nurse and medical transport company owner Tabitha Johnson-Green’s 42%. Johnson-Green’s campaign did not respond to an interview request. However, the two are set to debate at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16 at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, available to watch on Zoom at tinyurl.com/June16CandidateForum. (Editor’s note: Johnson-Green canceled her appearance at the forum at the last minute.)
Fore said she’d be the stronger candidate in November because she is well-known in Christian circles, having brought to light sexual abuse in the Presbyterian Church of America and now serving as a worship leader in the Methodist church. In addition, she pointed out that she lives in the district—Sandersville was drawn out of the 10th during post-Census redistricting earlier this year.
Johnson-Green was the Democratic nominee in 2018 and 2020, losing to Hice by more than 20 points both times. “We’ve had two cycles knowing what the outcome is with Tabitha,” Fore said. “We know she loses. We know she did a couple of points worse than Biden [in 2020]. So we know she loses based on the past data.”
The tweaked district now includes all of Athens, incorporating the northern sliver that used to be in the 9th. However, Cook Political Report still rates the district as solidly Republican. None of Georgia’s 14 U.S. House races are expected to be competitive in November, with nine seats drawn for Republicans and five reserved for Democrats.
Still, Fore cited her “nuanced” views on hot-button topics like abortion as one reason why she could attract conservative-leaning voters. “I’m a fiscally responsible Christian from Macon who used to be conservative in my 20s,” she said. That’s when she said she realized that progressive policies like access to birth control actually do more to prevent abortions than banning them.
On gun control, Fore said she’s in favor of “common-sense reforms” like background checks, red flag laws and raising the minimum age to buy firearms. She also supports expanded voting rights, indexing the minimum wage to housing costs, ending oil subsidies, universal health care and raising taxes on the wealthy.
According to her website, Johnson-Green supports Medicare for All, campaign finance reform, anti-discrimination legislation to protect the LGBTQ community, renewable energy, free tuition at public colleges and universities, eliminating cash bail and for-profit prisons, easing immigration laws, and gun-control measures like mandatory background checks and banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
Runoff elections are Tuesday, June 21. Voters who voted in either the Democratic or Republican primary in May can only vote in that same runoff. Those who didn’t vote can choose either ballot. Early voting is currently underway at the ACC Board of Elections office downtown and the ACC Library on Baxter Street and runs through Friday. For more information, visit accgov.com/160/Elections-Office or mvp.sos.ga.gov/s/.
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