Runoff 2022: 10th District candidates Collins, Jones trade barbs in debate

Trucking company owner Mike Collins (left) and former state Rep. Vernon Jones participate in the Atlanta Press Club debate ahead of the Republican runoff in Georgia's 10th Congressional District. Screenshot of Georgia Public Broadcasting livestream.

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Trucking company owner Mike Collins (left) and former state Rep. Vernon Jones participate in the Atlanta Press Club debate ahead of the Republican runoff in Georgia's 10th Congressional District. Screenshot of Georgia Public Broadcasting livestream.

Both candidates in the Republican runoff in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District accused one another of misleading voters about their political background.

Former State Rep. Vernon Jones and trucking company owner Mike Collins went back and forth on the topic, sometimes raising their voices at each other, during Monday’s debate hosted by The Atlanta Press Club.

Although Jones was a Democrat until 2020 when he became a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump, he spent several minutes attacking Collins’ father for starting his political career as a Democrat. Jones also accused Collins of trying to attract Democratic voters to the 2014 runoff when he was on the ballot against Jody Hice, but Collins said that was not what happened.

“He is the great pretender,” Jones said of that. “He pretends to be this, but he’s really that. Mike is a RINO,” Jones said, using an acronym using to describe members of the Republican party who critics said don’t truly ascribe to its values.

Collins in return pointed out Jones’ yearslong political career as a Democrat. And Collins said Jones has tried to pivot on issues such as abortion now that he is running as a Republican in a conservative district.

Both Collins and Jones said they are anti-abortion, but Collins pointed out that Jones voted against the so-called “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortions in Georgia after about six weeks of pregnancy. Jones said he voted against the bill because it didn’t go far enough in limiting access to abortion in all cases, but after the debate supporters of Collins circulated video from the Georgia House they said indicated Jones opposed such abortion limits at the time of the vote.

“Vernon Jones is a con man,” Collins said, “and what you have to do is look and see who do you trust on important issues such as life.”