State Sen. Burt Jones’ role on a phony slate of GOP electors in Georgia, designed to help Donald Trump’s failed effort to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, is drawing increased scrutiny as the Republican vies to become the state’s next lieutenant governor.
His Democratic opponent, attorney Charlie Bailey, has zeroed in on Jones’ inclusion on the GOP slate of electors, invoking investigations by the FBI and Fulton County in campaign speeches and fundraising emails. Some Republican strategists worry the issue could damage the rest of the GOP ticket.
In Bailey’s victory speech the night he won the Democratic primary runoff last month, Bailey said Jones, who is endorsed by Trump, was “not a patriot and not a true American.”
The Justice Department last month sought records from Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer and Brad Carver, an attorney and Republican activist who was among the 16 fake electors. The activity is part of a broader probe involving phony electors in several states.
After a presidential election, “electors” from the party of the winning candidate meet to cast the state’s electoral votes for the winner and send them to Congress to be certified.
As the official Democratic electors met Dec. 14, 2020, to cast Georgia’s electoral votes for Biden, Shafer gathered an alternative slate of Republicans to cast votes for Trump, even though it was an empty gesture from supporters of a losing candidate who wouldn’t accept that he lost.
The GOP in some other states Trump lost did the same with the hope that Vice President Mike Pence would throw out the legal electors.
Bailey, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said: “Burt Jones doesn’t get to decide whose votes count and whose votes don’t.
“When you step in and say, ‘I am the official elector of this state and I am saying that Donald Trump won this state despite the law, despite the certification (of votes), we are saying this because we want it to be the case,’ there’s nothing more unAmerican, there’s nothing more unpatriotic than an action like that.”
Jones spokesman Stephen Lawson, who called Bailey’s comments “politically motivated,” said Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis — who is investigating Trump — hosted a fundraiser last month for Bailey.
In a statement, Jones said, “These are nothing more than fake political attacks from a twice failed politician who has no platform to run on. Georgia families want someone who will put politics aside to deliver real results — and that’s exactly what I’ll be focused on doing as lieutenant governor.”
The AJC spoke to four GOP strategists. None wanted to speak publicly but all expressed similar concern about Jones’ involvement in the fake electors and worried that it would be a liability for his candidacy and other Republicans.
But Ryan Graham, the Libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor, said the focus on the GOP electors is unnecessary.
“I think it’s a distraction,” Graham said. “Everyone knew about that elector situation right when it happened, and it didn’t seem like it was criminal activity then. But now it is criminal activity? It doesn’t make sense.”
An email sent by Trump’s Georgia election day operations staffer shortly before the group of alternate electors gathered at the state Capitol asked participants to use discretion and not disclose why they had gathered. The electors were also told to tell Capitol security guards they were attending a meeting with Jones and state Sen. Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican.
The Justice Department is intensifying its investigation into the fake Georgia electors after a U.S. House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol in Washington presented evidence last month that tied the former president to the scheme to put forward pro-Trump slates.
Willis also said that the GOP electors were under scrutiny as part of her investigation into Trump’s attempt to reverse his defeat.
Bailey is expected to continue to call out Jones’ actions after the 2020 election.
“We can talk about policies till the cows come home, but this is bigger than that,” Bailey said. “If we don’t have representative democracy, we don’t have America. Period. And that’s what Burt Jones and his friends — that’s what they tried to take from the people of America and the people of Georgia.”