There was Vernon Jones -- with charisma, charm and testosterone at almost critical mass levels -- not quite announcing that he was running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by George Bush's lotion boy, Saxby Chambliss. The scene April 3 was Manuel's Tavern, a place famed for its politics and founded by one of Jones' predecessors as DeKalb County CEO, the legendary Yellow Dog Democrat Manuel Maloof.
It was the perfect place for a Democrat launching a campaign, and many candidates have done just that.
But Vernon Jones? Hmmm.
Reporters were clearly head-scratching puzzled at Jones' delicate dance around his candidacy. "I have not officially announced," he coyly cooed.
Then there was that strange visit Jones recently made to Chambliss in Washington. I suppose it's OK to visit a guy you want to kick onto the unemployment line, but it's not exactly routine. What did Vernon tell Saxby? Another hmmm.
Jones' gambit just doesn't add up – if you believe his nonsense about a Senate race. He won't win, and he knows it.
No Democrat stands a great chance since Georgia will probably be the last pathetic state to evolve out of the slime of the Bush-Cheney-DeLay-Abramoff-Gonzales GOP, the party of corruption and disdain for the Constitution, the party of war profiteering, and the party that espouses "family values" for everyone but its own multitude of adulterous presidential candidates. Unfortunately, many Georgians embrace the delusion that the horrible Republican excesses under the Gold Dome and in Washington are somehow preferable to, say, making sure all children have health care.
Yet, Jones is ambitious. Oh, yes he is. Making a suicide leap into a race against Chambliss is very un-Jones. No black Democrat from inside the Perimeter is going to win a statewide race in 2008. No way, no how.
The DeKalb CEO has often flirted with the Republican Party. He knows that being a black Republican is not only oxymoronic, it's simply plain old-fashioned moronic. True, the GOP really does like people of color – when it comes to needing minimum-wage waitstaff for $1,000-a-plate banquets for neo-Confederates. And there are a few sorry opportunists – Herman Cain, former Godfather's Pizza chairman and Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, comes to mind – who get a bit of fleeting fame, much like the bearded lady at the freak show, by being tokens.
The clues to Jones' strategy are in his rather anemic campaign literature and remarks at Manuel's. His message consists of bland platitudes about protecting the environment and balancing budgets (in Washington!?! Hahaha). The website for his alleged Senate campaign says nothing that couldn't be on, say, Chambliss' website – including a pledge of "unconditional support for our armed forces no matter where they are deployed." Most of America, and even most of the invertebrate Democrats in Congress, know that supporting our soldiers means getting them the hell out of an illegal and deception-driven war. But that's not what Jones is talking about. He's all-Bush, stay the course.
With all of the puzzle pieces about Jones' future, can they be assembled into something that makes sense? Possibly.
The buzz among many savvy Republican and Democrat insiders is that Jones is doing Chambliss a big favor. Chambliss probably doesn't have to worry about his seat. He has a solid base among the new-segregationist, religious-nutcase, hate-Atlanta bunch.
But it's just possible the Democrats could find a viable Senate candidate – such as Jim Butler, a progressive and well-connected trial lawyer from Columbus. If Jones, prior to May 2008 when he'd have to formally declare his candidacy, appeared to be running for the Senate, he'd siphon support and money from other candidates. Jones is a celebrity in DeKalb, with its large black and liberal base that's essential to a statewide run by a Democrat.
He could be the bomb that blows apart a true Democratic bandwagon on its way to unseating Chambliss.
It's worth recalling another DeKalb pseudo-Democrat, Denise Majette. The anti-Cynthia McKinney Republicans in DeKalb crossed over to the Democratic primary in 2002 and sent Majette to Congress. Two years later, she made a run for an open U.S. Senate seat and was soundly trounced by Republican Johnny Isakson, as everyone knew she would be.
Republicans nurtured her political career from the beginning. They knew a GOP candidate couldn't hope to unseat McKinney in DeKalb.
Had the Democrats fielded a real candidate in the Senate race against Isakson, there was the slimmest chance the Republicans would have lost. Majette had no chance, but she could snare the black vote and ensure that the Democratic nomination for senator went to a sure loser: her. Was she a convenient fool, or will she be the recipient of Republican favors in the future?
With Jones, it's not likely he'd volunteer for such work without a plum reward. And what's next best to the Senate? The U.S. House. The current occupant of what was McKinney's seat is Hank Johnson, a nice guy and a former DeKalb commissioner who was the swing vote between the Jones loyalists and the white commissioners.
Johnson is a weak incumbent with a lackluster presence. The affable and shrewd Jones could switch races just before qualifying deadline and easily knock Johnson off. The GOP would gain a "DINO" – Democrat in name only – the closest thing to a Republican that DeKalb voters would send to Congress.
As DeKalb CEO, Jones has been controversial in his personal life (last year he commented to me, "There's nothing illegal about a ménage a trois") but he's also been a reasonably competent administrator. He has the advantage of having repeatedly intimidated and muted the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which, as CL has reported, withheld news about many of his brouhahas – including one where Jones pulled a gun on a woman.
More tidbits from the upcoming elections: U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is said to have found out it ain't much fun being in the minority. He's considering a run for governor in 2010. The moderate Isakson knows how to work across party lines, he's popular, and he isn't an ideologue.
Running for Isakson's Senate seat, so the tipsters say, would be Congressman Jack Kingston of South Georgia, who is a GOP ideologue. And eyeing Kingston's U.S. House seat would be Georgia House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, another far-right GOP fanatic.
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