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by Brandon Jarvis

Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) traveled the commonwealth over the last year — first as a Democratic nominee for attorney general before the primary in the summer, then as a hype man for Democratic House candidates across Virginia.  

While the results of the November election led to Democrats losing control of the Executive Branch and the House of Delegates, Jones still saw positives for Virginians directly resulting from new progressive legislation passed during the last two years of a Democratic majority.

“First I am very optimistic that we had a robust participation,” Jones says of the election and citing the new laws from Democrats making it easier for Virginians to vote. “I think that is a testament to what we did in the majority the last two years.” 

He is hopeful that Republicans will focus on their platform from the campaign trail of schools and the economy instead of trying to roll back the new voter access laws. 

“I think you heard a lot from the Republicans about schools and the economy and I certainly hope that is where we are headed,” Jones said. “I do think robust participation is better for our Democracy. You think that everybody would want to support active engagement.” 

Jones lost seven Democratic colleagues in the House which provided the Republicans with a 52-48 majority. “It is obviously disappointing to see friends lose,” he said.

He continued by saying that Democrats will need to focus on policies that will have a direct impact on people’s lives moving forward. It is no secret at this point that the Democratic ticket focused heavily on tying Republicans to Donald Trump, while Republicans focused on gas prices, taxes, and education. 

“As we look ahead, you want to put forth an optimistic vision, you want to tell people what you are going to do for them,” Jones said. “Folks care about what is happening in their lives right now.” 

He also noted that leaders will need to realize not all Virginians have the same life experiences. “As policymakers and as public servants, it is on us to not just view things through our personal lens but through other people’s lenses,” he said while noting that he would hear different concerns when campaigning in Southwest Virginia compared to what he hears in his home district. “You realize that life isn’t just like what is happening in Norfolk.” 

The Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate chamber providing them with a final line of defense from Republican policies. That also means, however, that for any legislation to pass over the next two years, compromises from both sides will need to happen. “I guess the voters in their enduring wisdom, as is their prerogative, have put us all together to try to figure out how to chart a course forward,” Jones said. 

Earlier this year, Jones sought the Democratic nomination to run for attorney general. He lost to the two-term incumbent Mark Herring who eventually lost to Republican Jason Miyares in the general election. “It was an incredible experience running for statewide office and I think nobody will understand it until you have done it,” Jones said. 

He says that in the spring of 2020 he felt like it was his moment to run. “Over the course of 2020, I think we put together a campaign that I was incredibly proud of. I am deeply grateful to all of the folks who thought I would be a great nominee for the Democratic Party for attorney general.” 

Herring was originally thought to be pursuing the Democratic nomination for governor but he eventually decided to seek a third term as attorney general instead. Jones was already in the midst of his statewide campaign when he got a call from Herring notifying him that he would be seeking reelection. “He said, ‘hey, I am going to run for reelection,’ and I said, ‘okay, ill see you out there.’” 

Jones believes he had a different vision than Herring at the time of the primary race. “I really like Mark, I just thought we had a different vision for what is necessary in that particular moment.” 

Jones eventually raised more than $2 million and received 43% of the vote as a first-time, statewide candidate. “I’ll be eternally grateful for the experience,” Jones said while also citing the millions he raised, the endorsements he received, and hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters that chose him.  

At only 32, the future still looks good for Jones. He is on a lot of party strategists’ lists to be a popular statewide candidate in 2025. 

“A couple of years in politics is a lifetime. We could be in a completely different spot,” Jones said about running statewide again in 2025. 

Some strategists believe that Jones will be a top contender for not only attorney general but governor if he wants it. He made no commitments for 2025, saying he is focused on the upcoming legislative session —but he acknowledged he will be considering a lot of different options moving forward. 

“I am thinking about it, considering it,” Jones said about potentially running against for statewide office. “But again, that is a long time away.”

“ I am considering a whole bunch of things at the moment,” he continued. “I do think that there is some opportunity for us as a party to think about where we are going. I want to be a part of that and I want to help chart our course over the next decade.” 

As far as running for governor or attorney general if he were to launch another statewide campaign, Jones provided no real insight into his thinking, yet. “I do think that if you believe as a candidate that you have something to offer, that you have got the vision, the passion, the energy for that particular office, then you should go for it.”  

Listen to Virginia Scope’s entire interview with Jones below:

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