ATLANTA (AP) — Republican state Sen. Burt Jones is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia on a platform of fighting inflation and crime and improving education. But Democrat Charlie Bailey is focusing on Jones’ efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“I know what Georgia is going through right now, with the economy, inflation and everything else — crime on the streets,” Jones said in a Tuesday debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.
Bailey, however, often focuses on Jones’ involvement as one of 16 Republicans to register as a bogus elector in Georgia for Donald Trump in 2020 and his efforts to push for a special session in Georgia aimed at overturning President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state. .
“The truth is, Mr. Jones, what you did was un-American and unpatriotic,” Bailey said in a debate that included libertarian Ryan Graham. “You don’t get to decide for the people of Georgia who serves them and who their elected leader is. That’s their choice, not yours.”
The lieutenant governor presides over the Georgia Senate and helps control the flow of legislation. Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has decided not to seek a second term after emerging as a vocal critic of Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
Jones, who has Trump’s support, argued that his participation as an ineligible elector was an attempt to help keep Republican options open if they win lawsuits after the election. That brief contains documents about Jones’ other activities, including a flight to Washington the night before Jan. 6 for a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence. Jones said he originally intended to lobby Pence to throw out votes in Georgia and other states, then decided it would be futile.
A judge ruled in July that Democratic Fulton County Prosecutor Fannie Willis could not seek to prosecute Jones for his activities because she held a fundraiser for Bailey. The Georgia Board of Attorneys will decide whether to appoint a second prosecutor to bring charges against Jones.
Jones, the heir to a major oil distribution company and the founder of an insurance agency, reiterated his view on Tuesday that voters don’t really care about any of that: “What they’re telling me about is gas prices, four-year high inflation, the crime that’s going on, and then what is happening in our education system. And that’s what I focused on.”
Bailey, a former Fulton County assistant district attorney who lost the 2018 state attorney general race, is betting otherwise. But he’s laying out a fuller platform, pledging to be a loyal promoter of the priorities of his gubernatorial running mate, Stacey Abrams, in the state Senate.
That includes trying to repeal abortion restrictions and backing Abrams’ promises to raise teacher pay and expand Medicaid. Bailey also argues that Republicans are underfunding law enforcement, particularly the state crime lab, which is hindering prosecutions.
Bailey acknowledges that Republicans are likely to retain a majority in the state Senate and could strip him of many of his powers if elected. But he pledges to use whatever influence he has to support the Democratic agenda.
Jones attacked Bailey over his arrest in May 2011 on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Bailey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving and was sentenced to probation and community service.
Jones’ biggest promise is to try to eliminate Georgia’s income tax, which last year brought in more than $20 billion, or about 60% of all state taxes.
He also claims he wants to improve education by spending more public money on charter and private schools, prioritizing vocational and technical education, and reducing college costs by reining in university spending. Jones has also taken positions on the school culture war, saying he is trying to prevent schools from teaching things that “divide our children.”
He also proposes stiffer penalties for some crimes and more spending on law enforcement.
Jones raised $6.6 million and had $1.9 million available as of Sept. 30, including a $2 million loan to himself. Bailey raised nearly $1.9 million and had $650,000 in cash. Graham raised $8,300.
Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.