Democrat Hall endorses Brian Kemp and Burt Jones in surprise move

The top vote-getter in the first round of the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor made the surprise decision Friday to endorse GOP nominee Burt Jones in the race for Georgia’s No. 2 job rather than back the Democrat who defeated him in a runoff.

Kwanza Hall also threw his support behind Gov. Brian Kemp over Democrat Stacey Abrams in the race for Georgia’s top job. The endorsements are likely to be featured by both Republicans in the runup to the Nov. 8 election as an example of their crossover appeal.

Hall said he sided with Jones over Democrat Charlie Bailey because of his “proven track record of delivering results.” He praised Kemp for ensuring that his “door has always been open to those who have Georgia’s best interests at heart, regardless of politics.”

Jones and Kemp both lead their Democratic rivals in recent polls, though both contests tightened slightly in the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey. Hall instantly becomes one of the highest-profile Democrats to support their campaigns.

A former Atlanta city councilmember, Hall briefly served as a U.S. House member to fill the remainder of the term of the late civil rights hero John Lewis. He also waged a failed bid for Atlanta mayor in 2017.

Hall won about 30% of the vote in the nine-way Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in May, forcing a runoff against Bailey, a former prosecutor who notched 18% of the vote. With Abrams’ endorsement in the June runoff, Bailey coasted to victory over Hall.

In a statement, Hall touted Jones’ plan to “invest in our communities, lower costs, improve our k-12 education system and reduce crime.” Jones, a state legislator with a conservative voting record, has tried to broaden his appeal after winning the GOP nod with Donald Trump’s blessing.

Jones said he will work with Hall “and others in a bipartisan way to create more opportunities for hardworking Georgians and continue to make our state the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

In the race for governor, Hall said he was impressed by Kemp’s “tough decisions – ones that weren’t always popular at the time – in unprecedented circumstances.”

“While we don’t agree on every issue, it’s abundantly clear that Brian Kemp is a man of character, a strong leader, and someone who Georgians can trust to put them and their interests first,” the Democrat said.

The governor said he planned to work with Hall and others in a second term “to put political differences aside and keep our state the best place to live, work and raise a family for the next four years.”

Hall isn’t the only prominent Democratic elected official to cross party lines to back a statewide Republican candidate.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes in October endorsed GOP state Sen. Tyler Harper’s bid for agriculture commissioner, drawing howls of protest from Democrats. And ex-Gov. Joe Frank Harris sided with Kemp over Abrams.