Trump-linked Georgia lawmaker to run for lieutenant governor
ATLANTA (AP) — State Sen. Burt Jones has filed to run for lieutenant governor in Georgia, launching another Republican candidacy that will be closely tied to denying Donald Trump’s 2020 loss of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.
Jones, of Jackson, filed state campaign finance paperwork Friday after flirting with the bid for months. He’s been acting like a candidate, most recently calling on Gov. Brian Kemp to launch a special session to ban public school districts from mandating that their students wear masks.
Jones faces a powerful and well-funded opponent for the Republican nomination, state Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Gainesville. Miller is tightly linked with the business community and raised $2 million in a five-week sprint after announcing his candidacy in May, winning the endorsement of former Gov. Nathan Deal.
The office will be open in 2022 because Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan isn’t seeking a second term. Other declared Republicans include Jeanne Seaver of Savannah and Mack McGregor of Lafayette. Announced Democrats include State Rep. Erick Allen of Smyrna, State Rep. Derrick Jackson of Tyrone, Bryan Miller of Watkinsville, Kolbey Gardner of Atlanta, Jason Hayes of Alpharetta and Benjamin Turner of Atlanta.
Trump last month put out a statement disavowing Miller and inviting other Republicans to run for lieutenant governor, in a move that looks like it was meant to clear the way for Jones’ candidacy, saying he opposed Miller “because of his refusal to work with other Republican senators on voter fraud and irregularities in the state.”
Jones was one of a group of state senators who called on Kemp to call a special session to consider overturning Georgia’s presidential election results and who signed a court brief supporting a failed lawsuit by Texas officials challenging election results in Georgia and other states. Jones also mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Miller for president pro tem. Those two actions led Miller and other Senate Republican leaders to strip Jones of his committee chair position.
Jones has worn his demotion as a badge of honor. He spoke Saturday at a Republican rally in Rome, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, winning applause when he said he was “punished” for his advocacy for Trump.
He also called Saturday for reducing the state’s income tax, increasing funding for police, likening himself to Trump by saying, “I think we have a real swamp in Georgia.”
Jones earlier appeared at an “Election Integrity Town Hall,” with U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene where organizers handed out “Trump Won” signs to attendees.
Georgia’s election results have become a fault line in the party. Embattled Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger faces Trump-endorsed primary challenger U.S. Rep Jody Hice for another term. Duncan said he’d build GOP 2.0, an effort to heal a damaged party through empathy and respect. And Gov. Brian Kemp faces a pesky primary challenge from recent GOP convert Vernon Jones, who has made attacking the results the centerpiece of his campaign and who is openly courting a Trump endorsement.
Trump has repeatedly attacked Kemp and Raffensperger, fixating on them as contributors to his loss. Trump supporters who believe he was cheated have flowed into county and state Republican party organizations, backing GOP officers who support that position.
Georgia’s lieutenant governor has relatively little power in law, with senators deciding how strong they want the office to be.
Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy