After meeting with Trump, Georgia’s Vernon Jones likely to exit GOP gubernatorial primary

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A likely announcement by gubernatorial candidate Vernon Jones that he’s dropping out of Georgia’s GOP primary could come as early as Friday.

Two Republican sources familiar with the situation told Fox News on Wednesday that after meeting last week with Donald Trump and being offered the former president’s backing if he instead runs for Congress or another statewide office, Jones is currently “weighing his options.”

And they add that an announcement by the former Democratic state lawmaker turned Republican, who was a top Black surrogate for Trump in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election, could come between Friday and Monday.

Jones, who launched his 2022 gubernatorial campaign last April, is one of a handful of GOP candidates primary challenging conservative Gov. Brian Kemp.

Former Georgia state lawmaker Vernon Jones, who’s primary challenging GOP Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022, speaks at CPAC Dallas on July 11, 2021 in Dallas, Texas
(Fox News )

Four years ago, with the support of Trump, Kemp narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams. But Kemp earned Trump’s ire starting in late 2020, after he certified now-President Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia, following two recounts of the vote.

Trump, who had unsuccessfully urged Kemp and other top Republican officials in the state to overturn the results, has repeatedly vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp. 

Trump for months urged former GOP Sen. David Perdue to primary challenge the governor, and late last year he endorsed Perdue a day after the former senator declared his candidacy. Perdue jumped into the race days after Abrams, the voting rights champion and rising Democratic Party star, launched her second straight campaign for governor.

“There’s been a lot of speculation about my political future, as of late. My priority is – and has been since Day One – is to do whatever it takes to defeat Brian Kemp who’s cowardice nearly cost us our country. I will always stand with President Trump in anywhere I serve,” Jones wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

A source with knowledge of Jones’ meeting last week with Trump at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, told Fox News that Jones “walked away” from the encounter with Trump saying that he’d “have the full support of the president” if he exited the gubernatorial race and instead ran for House seats in either Georgia’s 6th or 10th Congressional Districts, or potentially a bid for state insurance commissioner.

The 10th CD is currently held GOP Rep. Jody Hice, another Trump loyalist, who’s primary challenging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In the 6th CD, Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath is running for reelection this year.

A second meeting between Trump and Jones at Mar-a-Lago is expected at the beginning of next week, the sources told Fox News.

Then-Senator David Perdue speaks at a campaign event on December 17, 2020 in Columbus, Georgia.  (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
((Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images))

An exit from the GOP gubernatorial primary by Jones would likely benefit Perdue. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted Jan. 19-24 indicated Kemp was backed by 43% of likely Republican primary voters, with 36% supporting Perdue and Jones at 10%. The other candidates registered in the lower single digits, with five percent undecided.

This isn’t the first time this cycle that Trump, who remains the most popular and influential figure in the Republican Party as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in the GOP as he repeatedly flirts with another White House run in 2024, has attempted to remove rivals in primary races where he’s endorsed a candidate.

Late last year, Trump unsuccessfully encouraged former Rep. Mark Walker to end his bid for the GOP Senate nomination in North Carolina, in return for an endorsement if Walker ran for Congress. Trump earlier last year endorsed Rep. Ted Budd in the race. Walker last week announced that he would continue to seek the Senate nomination.

And last September, after Trump endorsed Harriet Hageman’s primary challenge against Rep. Liz Cheney in the race for Wyoming’s at-large House seat, he and his allies successfully urged some, but not all, of the other anti-Cheney GOP candidates to drop out of the primary and coalesce around Hageman.

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