ATLANTA – The two Republican candidates for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District seat agreed on the major issues in a debate Monday.

But that didn’t stop trucking executive Mike Collins and former state Rep. Vernon Jones from delivering some sharp exchanges during the 30-minute debate livestreamed by Georgia Public Broadcasting, mostly over which of the two is the real Republican.

Both Collins and Jones said they oppose abortion with no exceptions.

Both said they would oppose any efforts to increase restrictions on guns in the wake of the recent mass shootings in New York state, Texas and Oklahoma and called instead for arming teachers.

“Having a gun and protecting your family is important,” Jones said.

Collins compared the need to arm school personnel to the nation’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“If we can secure our airports … we’ve got to secure our schools,” he said.

Where the two parted ways was over which is more loyal to the Republican Party.

Jones hammered away at Collins for being the son of a former congressman, the late Mac Collins, who was elected to the Butts County Commission as a Democrat in the late 1970s before turning Republican two years later.

“He was raised as a Democrat,” Jones said of Collins. “Mike is a RINO (Republican in Name Only.)”

Collins said his father became a Republican when the younger Collins was just 10 years old. The younger Collins said he started a chapter of the Young Republicans while a student at Georgia College and State University.

Collins noted that Jones, on the other hand, served in the General Assembly as a Democrat and voted in the Democratic presidential primary in 2020.

“He has spent his entire life as a Democrat,” Collins said of Jones.

The two did agree on the need for Georgia to switch to closed primaries, where voters must register their party affiliation and can only vote in their party’s primaries.

Jones accused Collins of sending mailers to Democratic voters urging them to cross over and vote for him in the Republican primary, a charge Collins denied.

“I have never been in favor of crossover voting,” he said.

In closing, Jones touted his endorsement by former President Donald Trump.

“I stand for election integrity,” he said.

Collins said as a political outsider, he would bring business experience to Congress.

Collins won 25.6% of the vote in last month’s primary in a crowded Republican race featuring eight candidates. Jones made the runoff by finishing second with 21.5% of the vote.

The winner of the June 21 runoff will face the winner of the 10th District Democratic runoff between Tabitha Johnson-Green and Jessica Allison in the general election in November.

The seat is vacant because U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, decided to leave Congress in what turned out to be an unsuccessful run for Georgia secretary of state.

The heavily Republican 10th Congressional District stretches from Butts County and a portion of Henry County north and east through Athens and Elbert County to the South Carolina line.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.