He may run for other offices in DeKalb County. He will lose. It is inconceivable for him to wrangle an appointed role in executive authority in government after last night’s three-to-one loss to Sheriff Jeff Mann. He may have political advice to give others, but I doubt it will be heard, much less heeded.
Political folks here expected a loss, but the margin stunned most people I’ve spoken with. The exception: Lee May, DeKalb’s interim CEO. May had the spread pegged days ago.
May was eager last night at Mann’s victory party in Northlake to show me a series of insane text messages Jones sent him in the days before the race, cajoling him to offer support. “It got biblical,” said May, a minister-turned-politician.
Others told darker tales last night of Jones’ weirdness. Jones messaged Debra Deberry, DeKalb County’s clerk of superior court, with an appeal that bordered on a threat, she said. She contemplated a temporary protective order after reading it, she added, half-jokingly.
This is what a meltdown looks like. I’ve seen it personally, in Jones’ messages to me.
State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick — who will be running this county sooner or later — had a thread going on Facebook last Thursday about the Mann-Jones race. I mentioned a few choice items from Jones’ resume. And then Jones himself appeared in the thread.
After some lame back-and-forth in which he claimed to have never lost the discrimination lawsuit that he plainly lost, Jones erupted.
“Still waiting for you to stop drinking clorox and accept my invitation to meet,” he wrote. As a matter of fact, let’s you, me and your candidate meet in the DA’s office and address the issues you have. If not, your credibility is a sponge!” And then, further down the thread, this. “Remember, that Clorox you are drinking only bleaches you in the inside. At the end of the day, you are not one of them. You will always be Stephen (Samuel Jackson) in Jango!”
“Drinking Clorox” is a line from a Public Enemy song, implying that my criticism comes from racial self-loathing.
I have no idea what the sponge thing is supposed to mean.
On the Thursday night before an election, Vernon Jones somehow found the time to dog people on Facebook. With one stroke, Jones claimed vindication in a lawsuit accusing him of racial discrimination. In the next, he hurled racial abuse. I wasn’t going to write about it, simply because I couldn’t believe it. A sane candidate might worry a bit about something like that getting out. But in retrospect, it appears consistent with other current behavior. I marvel.
Jones’ campaign published a caricature of Mann as a puppet, with a white hand holding puppet strings connected to white leaders in DeKalb County. The attack plays overtly to racial anxieties. It’s a shade of notoriously segregationist Jesse Helms’ “White Hands” ad from his 1990 victory over Harvey Gantt. Jones is from North Carolina and is nothing if not a student of old-school politics. The similarity of the approach, though racially reversed, bears consideration.
With that ad, Jones has become the face of black political racism in Georgia.
Jeff Mann, a political newcomer elevated into the DeKalb sheriff’s seat after Thomas Brown resigned to run for Congress, beat the veteran campaigner 76.4 percent to 23.6. People do not come back from a three-to-one loss, not when they are a known quantity.
Jones appears to have won only eight precincts of the 193 in DeKalb County, each by a handful of votes. He won his home precinct by all of four votes. In contrast, Mann racked up dozen of precincts with 10-to-1 margins. Even in Jones’ old stomping grounds of southeast DeKalb near Lithonia, Mann outpolled him in most precincts by at least three-to-two. It appears that Jones’ legacy in south DeKalb — the sidewalks and road projects his supporters told me of as I knocked on doors south of Memorial Drive this weekend — was outweighed by his baggage and, perhaps, his erratic racially-provocative campaign against another African-American.
Though he spent the campaign describing himself as “unbought and unbossed,” invoking Shirley Chisolm, it might be truer to say that Jones has thoroughly burned every bridge to the county’s political establishment, black and white, with this race. Jones raised more than $180,000 campaigning for a result that appears indistinguishable from a punter with a $100 warchest. That’s $14.40 a vote for a 3-to-1 loss. Never mind how future donors might have to defend contributions to a racially-divisive candidate; I don’t know how they’ll justify the lousy return on investment.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Jeff Mann is now arguably the most popular political figure in DeKalb County. He’s providing desperately-needed stability at a time when the county commission, the school board and other public institutions here are at best looking for their feet and at worst bracing themselves for a fall.
The unanswered question now is what to make of former Sheriff Thomas Brown. Though he lost his run for the 4th Congressional District seat held by Hank Johnson, he remains well regarded in the community. To a degree, Mann’s victory ratified Brown’s leadership of the department. We’re a bit short on leaders right now, and that condition may worsen. Here’s hoping he’s not out of work for very long.