ATLANTA (AP) – Republican Sen. Burt Jones is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia on a platform to fight inflation and crime and improve education. But Democrat Charlie Bailey is focused on Jones’ efforts to overthrow 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 debate Tuesday sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.
However, Bailey often focuses on Jones’ participation as one of 16 Republicans who sided with Donald Trump as Georgia’s fake voter in 2020 and his efforts to push for a special session in Georgia aimed at securing the narrow victory of to overthrow President Joe Biden in the state.
“The truth is, Mr. Jones, what you did was un-American and unpatriotic,” Bailey said in a debate also attended by Libertarian Ryan Graham. “You cannot decide for the people of Georgia who serves them and who is their chosen leader. That’s her choice, not yours.”
The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Georgia Senate and helps control the flow of legislation. Republican Lt. gov. Geoff Duncan decided against a second term after emerging as a vocal critic of Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election.
Jones, who has Trump’s endorsement, claims his participation as an unsanctioned voter was an attempt to keep options open to Republicans if they won lawsuits after the election. That statement covers other Jones activities, including flying to Washington the night before January 6 to meet with Vice President Mike Pence. Jones has said that he originally intended to get Pence to throw out the Georgia and other states’ electoral votes and then decided it was pointless.
A judge ruled in July that Democratic Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could not prosecute Jones for his activities in conducting a fundraiser for Bailey. The Georgia State Attorneys’ Council will decide whether to appoint another prosecutor who could bring charges against Jones.
Jones, heir to a major petroleum company and founder of an insurance agency, reiterated on Tuesday his stance that voters don’t really care: “What they’re talking to me about is gas prices, four years of high inflation, crime that’s going on, and then what is going on in our education system. And that’s what I focused on.”
Bailey, a former Fulton County assistant district attorney who lost a race as attorney general in 2018, is betting on something else. But he’s pushing for a more complete platform, promising to be a staunch promoter of his Senate gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams’ priorities.
That includes trying to reverse abortion restrictions and backing Abrams’ pledges to increase teachers’ salaries and expand Medicaid health coverage. Bailey also argues that Republicans underfund law enforcement, particularly the state crime lab, which hampers law enforcement.
Bailey concedes that Republicans are likely to retain a majority in the state Senate and could strip him of many powers if elected. But he promises to use whatever influence he has to support a democratic agenda.
Jones attacked Bailey over a May 2011 arrest on suspicion of drink driving. Bailey pleaded reckless driving and was sentenced to probation and community service.
Jones’ biggest promise is an attempt to abolish Georgia’s income tax, which generated more than $20 billion last year, about 60% of all state tax revenue.
He also claims that he wants to improve education by spending more public money on charter and private schools, prioritize vocational and technical education, and lower college costs by curbing university spending. Jones has also staked out positions in the school culture war, saying he’s trying to stop schools from teaching things that “divide our kids.”
He also suggests tougher penalties for some crimes and more spending on law enforcement.
Jones has raised $6.6 million and had $1.9 million available as of September 30, including a $2 million loan to himself. Bailey has raised nearly $1.9 million and had $650,000 in cash. Graham raised $8,300.
Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.