Kermit Jones doesn’t want to do everything about Donald Trump.
He’s a Black Democrat who – to his great surprise – has found himself in a long-shot bid for Congress and is facing a November runoff against Republican Rep. Kevin Kiley in a Northern California county who is white and conservative.
It’s one of a few crucial races that could help determine the balance of power in Washington at a very sensitive moment for democracy.
Even as a House committee investigates last year’s attack on the US Capitol and lays out its case against the former president and ties his lies about voter fraud to far-right violence, Jones has chosen his words carefully.
“We have a group of people who for some reason have kind of forgotten what this country is supposed to stand for,” he said. “Guys on January 6th, I don’t know, they got lost.”
But when it comes down to it, Jones isn’t afraid to engage in the kind of independent thinking and fortune-telling that so many other political candidates seem to have abandoned in their quest for Republican voters.
“It’s Trump’s fault,” he said. “I think we’re the closest we’ve come to becoming an autocracy since our democracy was created.”
Many Republicans have tried to portray the Jan. 6 committee hearings, now in their second week, as a ruse concocted by Democrats to distract voters from the many problems facing the country under President Biden, from soaring gas prices to to problems in the supply chain.
Instead, the hearings were a bipartisan demonstration of why we need more people like Jones in Congress — and why we don’t need more white, supremacist, Trump-backed sycophants who conveniently turn a blind eye to the “big lie.”
Like Rep. Mike Garcia, who is running for re-election and is caught in a hotly contested rematch with former Rep. Christy Smith in the redrawn 27th Circuit of northern Los Angeles County. His track record includes refusing to confirm the results of the Pennsylvania and Arizona presidential elections and refusing to impeach Trump for his role in the riot or to vote for an independent commission to investigate it.
And like Kiley, who has made a name for himself in Republican circles by representing the town of Rocklin, east of Sacramento. He was endorsed by Trump and has given no indication that he would be a check or balance as a member of Congress.
Jones has no illusions about what it will take and how tough it will be to win in November.
“The big advantage [Kiley] He’s got the money machine behind him because the GOP wants that seat,” he said. “They don’t worry about democracy. They are not interested in representation. They only care about power.”
Fundraising will be critical, he said, “because we know the GOP is going to pour a lot of money into it.”
Jones has had many careers in his life. Politics is just the emerging latest.
Today he is a specialist in internal medicine. Most days, the 46-year-old commutes from the home he shares with his wife and children in Woodland to work in Vacaville, Auburn and Roseville — sometimes nearly 50 miles each way.
It’s a fairly rural part of California, dotted with farms and shopping malls perched on increasingly parched rolling hills, but it suits it.
Jones grew up on a blueberry farm in South Haven, Michigan, a town of about 4,300 people. His parents took the family there from Chicago to escape their violent neighborhood.
After high school, Jones entered an elite program to train for a dual career in medicine and law. But after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he felt the pressure of civic duty and joined the Navy to train as a flight surgeon. He completed two deployments in Iraq before landing in California.
That military service, Jones said, influenced his politics and made him more conservative, although he is a staunch supporter of abortion rights and knows Biden was elected fairly and honestly. The world can be a dangerous place, Jones warns, and that’s why people need to be self-reliant.
Those are the values he hopes will serve as a common ground for voters in the redesigned 3rd District, even as a Democrat.
About the size of West Virginia, it extends from Plumas County in the northeast through the suburbs of Sacramento and far south into Inyo County between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Nevada state line. Politically, it aligns more with Appalachia than with the Golden State’s laissez-faire outlook on life.
And yet, based on the latest results, the good doctor won 40% of the vote in last week’s primary, defeating both Kiley and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican known for his anti-border rhetoric and his own dalliances with the former President is known. Thank goodness we were spared a drain where two Trump growlers tried to outdo each other.
It’s further proof that while being a Trumpian is no longer a guarantee of being elected, it clearly still has some appeal.
In a new analysis, the Washington Post found that by the end of May voters had selected at least 108 candidates for state office or Congress who say the presidential election was rigged. That number rises to around 150 if you include candidates who, despite the lack of evidence, have advocated more restrictions on voting to prevent fraud.
Kiley is a pure Trumpian.
He’s spent the pandemic railing against public health measures and absentee voting, even going so far as to sue Gov. Gavin Newsom for what he called “the greatest example of executive branch hyperbole in modern history.” .
When an appeals court overturned Kiley’s initial victory and the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, he offered a Trump-style retaliation: “You have literally nothing to say about it. Sad.”
At a recent debate, he reiterated that he opposes abortion rights and believes the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was the “appropriate decision from a constitutional perspective.” When asked if Biden was legitimately elected, Kiley refused to give a straight answer, instead repeating twice that it “depends on what you mean by legitimately.”
It’s not unlike some of the testimonies we heard at hearings before the January 6 committee.
On Monday, the discussion centered on how many people close to Trump told him his allegations of voter fraud were false, while others allowed him to do so. We already know that several Republican lawmakers, including Bakersfield House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, belonged to the latter group.
The result of all this spineless activity was a riot that claimed lives, emboldened white supremacists and, according to the committee, nearly resulted in a coup.
It’s a shame that just standing up for the truth about the big lie passes for political courage these days. But rewarding those who do, regardless of party, is the real lesson we should learn from the January 6 committee.
Because bad things will happen, even in California, if we don’t.
Jones is confident. Yes, he split the Republican vote in the primary to land in the November runoff. But for him, a Democrat, to even be on the ballot is an opportunity for California to help the country.
In the end, however, Jones said he was running for Congress for a much more personal reason: his mother’s diagnosis with lung cancer in 2018.
Jones has spent many frustrating days and nights navigating the country’s healthcare system from the other side of the stethoscope. He said he’s tired of political talking points and guidelines from elected officials who don’t really understand the issues, especially when it comes to healthcare.
“There’s a lot of people who, at the end of the day, want someone who’s going to be a straight shooter,” Jones said. “And that’s why I think we’re getting the support.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-16/january-6th-committee-hearings-trump-election-deniers-congress-kermit-jones Jan. 6 hearings show risk of electing Trumpers to Congress