Monday afternoon at GPB in midtown Atlanta, three primary election runoff debates took place for the second, sixth and tenth U.S. Congressional Districts. The headlining debate featured former State Representative Vernon Jones and Mike Collins. Both men are running for the 10th U.S. Congressional seat, vacated by the outgoing Jody Hice. 

For Georgia, a run-off is required when a candidate didn’t receive a majority of votes in the general election. June 21 will be the last day that voters can pick from the two candidates for their district. 

Jones, former chief executive officer for Dekalb County, was originally a Democrat as he began his political career. He switched to the Republican Party after endorsing former President Donald Trump for reelection in 2020. 

Meanwhile, Collins is a truck driver with his own trucking company. He ran for Congress in the 10th District election against Jody Hice. This was also a topic of discussion in the debate. 

During the 30-minute debate, Democrats and accusations of cross-voting were brought up frequently. Both candidates maintained they were against cross-over voting, but in different ways. 

Collins said that the federal government has no role in state elections, something that Jones rebutted. Jones said he supports legislation to keep elections separated, but didn’t give much clarification on the laws he supports specifically. 

“I would love to have closed primaries,” Collins told reporters after the debate. “I would love to have people that actually live in the district can run in the district. You can tell who voted in the primaries, you’ll be able to see their names are on that and you don’t how they voted but you know, the ones that crossed over and voted. Their names are out there now.

Jones brought up a report on a mailer sending pamphlets to Democrats to not vote for Hice in the 2014 election. Though the mailer’s alliances weren’t reported, Jones said that Collins was the one who orchestrated it. The cause for Collins allegedly sending out pamphlets to encourage cross-voting was clear to Jones. To him, it’s because Collins’ father was a Democrat. 

Collins called it a hit job. 

“I have never asked anybody to cross over,” said Collins. 

It is currently permissible for Georgia voters to vote in any political party’s primary election.

“We’re seeing now that effort of the crossover now in this election that was reported by the media that’s not reported by me even liberal media,” Jones said after the debate. “I’m doing this in the name of election integrity.

Collins then mentioned Jones’s insistence on voting in the Democratic presidential primary. 

Jones harped on this frequently, asking Collins about his father’s political party. Collins mentioned his father’s hand in creating the Butts County Republican Party. He mentioned that his father was elected as county commissioner.
He never gave a full answer. 

Jones was quick to retort to the non-answer. 

“He’s a liar. He lied on Jody Hice. He lied on everybody,” Jones said. 

Jones and Collins did have some common ground though. They both stated that they’re pro-life, with no exception to the mother’s life or other circumstances. They also shared similar stances on how to tackle gun violence. Arming teachers and increasing law enforcement were actions both of them suggested to reduce mass shootings in classrooms. This was a common answer among all of the candidates on reducing gun violence.

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...