Running for the 89th House District wasn’t something Jerrauld “Jay” Jones had planned to do for a long time, he says from his campaign headquarters on North Colley Avenue in Lambert’s Point.
But when Daun Hester, the current delegate for the 89th, announced in December of last year that she would be running for Norfolk City Treasurer, the phone calls started to pour in. The calls were from current elected officials who thought he would do a good job.
“People assume I had planned on doing it for a long time because of my father, but it really just sort of happened when Daun made the announcement,” says Jones. Jones’s father, Jerrauld C. Jones, served as the delegate for the 89th District from 1988-2002, and now sits as a judge on Norfolk Circuit Court.
“Not everyone is born with the same opportunities,” says Jones. “But I believe it’s incumbent on us to help people make something of themselves. We want to make sure that everyone has a chance to succeed.” Therefore, notes Jones, “Opportunity for Everyone” is the theme that Jones brings to his campaign.
Like his opponent, Joe Dillard Jr., Jones explains that improving education is one of his greatest goals as a legislator. His number one educational priority, Jones explains, is to expand pre-kindergarten to everyone, as so much of a child’s developmental framework is determined by that age. Jones also wants to increase teacher salaries, as Virginia currently ranks 35th in the nation in that category.
Also like his opponent, Jones wants to expand the minimum wage in Virginia. “As living costs rise, and wages stay flat, we push people into poverty,” explains Jones. Jones would like to see a $15/hour minimum wage, but agrees it would have to be a gradual, incremental increase.
Jones, 28, is no stranger to the House of Delegates. In college, he was a junior legislative intern for then delegate Paula Miller, and in law school, he did the same thing for then delegate Algie Howell. The members of the House of Delegates that Jones has worked for were not in the House when his father was a delegate, Jones notes.
Like his father, Jones is an attorney, and is an associate at the Norfolk law firm of Wilcox and Savage. He has worked at Wilcox and Savage since 2015, and practices primarily labor and employment law. He is currently on unpaid leave, which he took so that he could devote all of his time to his campaign. He was born and raised in Norfolk, and his family has been here for 100 years. He is a graduate of Norfolk Collegiate, William and Mary, and University of Virginia Law School.
Jones cites all of his grandparents as his first inspiration to be involved in politics. As his parents both spent a lot of time working, Jones spent a large part of his time as a child with his grandparents. His grandfather, Hillary Jones, grew up in the Huntersville section of Norfolk, and was the first black person to be appointed to the Norfolk School Board, and the first black person to be appointed to the Virginia Board of Education. Hilary Jones’s wife and Jones’s grandmother, Corinne Jones, was also very civic minded, and involved in the civil rights movement. His maternal grandfather, Charles Simmons, was dean of the History Department at Norfolk State University, and Anne Margaret Simmons, his maternal grandmother, was a professor of English at Hampton University. Jones stresses that they had a large impact on him as a child, forming his worldview and teaching him the importance of education. It is that education, namely his legal education, and his experience as a lawyer, that he cites as making him uniquely qualified to be a delegate.
Jones describes campaigning as an incredibly fun experience. “The (89th) District is drawn so that we take in all types of people, and we have taken the time to listen to every constituent that we have contacted. I am proud that we have campaigned in every corner of the 89th, from Berkley to Larchmont to Rosemont, and have really enjoyed the last four months.”
One of the biggest challenges Jones has faced in his campaign is letting people know that there is a primary, he says. “Virginians suffer from what I call ‘voter fatigue,’ and can easily tune out all of the political information thrown their way. We have done our best to get our message to all the members of the 89th so that they can make an informed decision on June 13th.”
And with that, he has to leave to deliver that message. It’s 6:00 p.m., and time to hit the civic league meetings. Such is the life of a candidate.
For more on this candidate, here is his Facebook page.