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Monday, January 18, 2010

Vernon Jones: I'm a changed man

click to enlarge 'Did I mention that I want to focus on jobs?'
  • 'Did I mention that I want to focus on jobs?'

Vernon Jones — the flamboyant, charismatic and occasionally mind-blowing politician whose two terms as DeKalb County CEO either left you loving or hating him — says he's seen the light, learned from his mistakes, and wants to go to Washington, D.C.

At a press conference on Friday, Jones officially joined what's looking to be a crowded race for Georgia's Fourth Congressional District,

Much like former Gov. Roy Barnes, who kicked off his 2010 gubernatorial run by admitting he'd stepped on a few toes in the past, Jones told reporters that he's learned about himself since leaving office. He said he's a "changed man," "become more of a statesman," and is now a helluva lot more skilled at working with the media.

"For the past year, I've done a lot of reflection and listening," Jones said. "I've realized I made some mistakes in the past. And I've certainly learned from them. I've learned humility and I've learned contrition."

Standing in front of a "jobs first" banner, Jones said he'd tap his experience as a businessman, state lawmaker and county chief executive to help small businesses and spur job creation in the district, which includes parts of DeKalb, Gwinnett and Rockdale Counties.

"People want someone who can address kitchen-table issues," Jones said. "I've got a solid record of putting food on people's tables and giving them an opportunity to have jobs and giving them prosperity. This campaign is going to be about creating jobs, creating opportunities, and giving people a chance to go back to work."

Jones lashed out at "Wall Street fat cats" who benefited from bonuses funded by the federal stimulus — which he said was poorly implemented — while average Joes and Janes struggled to pay the rent.

Jones, whose very Democratic-ness was called into question during his unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid in 2008, said the votes he cast for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 were mistakes — ones which he corrected when cast a ballot for President Barack Obama. "I've always been a Democrat," he said.

His campaign faces obstacles. For as much good as Jones says he's done for DeKalb County — he took plenty of swipes at the county's current leadership and trumpeted his administration's achievements of adding greenspace and balancing the budget — he's also managed to build up a crowd of critics. Jones will have to capitalize on his name recognition, recount his record, and unseat an incumbent. That's a tall order, even for someone as well versed in politics as Vernon Jones.

Jones' opponents include Congressman Hank Johnson, the incumbent who's served the district for two terms, and DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes, with whom Jones served during his glorious days as the county's chief executive. DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May is also reportedly considering a run for the seat.

(Photo by Thomas Wheatley)

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