State Rep. Vernon Jones backtracked Thursday on plans to resign from his General Assembly seat, a day after announcing he would step down in the wake of fierce criticism for his endorsement of President Donald Trump’s reelection bid.
Jones, D-Lithonia, said on Twitter he decided to reverse course after receiving “overwhelming support and outcry” following his resignation decision Wednesday morning.
“That was emotional and that was motivational,” Vernon said, shortly before noting he will remain in the primary to hold his state House seat.
The remarks came a day after Jones said he is tired of “being attacked and harassed by the Democrat Party” in the wake of his public show of support for the Republican president.
“Turn the lights off, I have left the plantation,” Jones said in a statement announcing his resignation Wednesday. “Someone else can occupy that suite.”
Jones is angling for a third consecutive term in staunchly Democratic House District 91, based in east metro Atlanta, including a portion of Rockdale County. He drew one opponent, Rhonda Taylor, a community activist who owns a consulting company in Conyers and ran unsuccessfully against Jones in 2016.
He is on his second stint in the Georgia House of Representatives that began in 2016, following a longer House tenure from 1993 to 2001. The outspoken Jones was also DeKalb County’s CEO from 2001 to 2009.
In recent comments, Jones criticized the Democratic Party as a stifling influence on conservative black Americans. He also hailed Trump’s economic record, his support for historic black colleges and universities, and for signing legislation to release low-level federal prisoners.
Jones has also lashed out against Democratic lawmakers for their stances on immigration, noting he prefers the crackdown approach Trump takes on illegal border crossings.
In a radio interview Wednesday morning, Jones said he plans to remain a Democrat despite the fact his statements of late have met with intense criticism from Georgia Democratic leaders.
“What are they going to do, spank me?” Jones said on The Rashad Richey Morning Show. “I don’t care what the Democratic Party is going to do.”
Georgia Democratic leaders were quick to denounce Jones after his endorsement of Trump’s campaign last week, framing his public comments as a decisive break with the party.
State House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, promptly backed Taylor’s campaign to unseat Jones. And state Sen. Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, called Jones “an embarrassment” to the party who “does not stand for our values.”
“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,” said Williams, D-Atlanta.