In 2019, I met Jones at a espresso store in Norfolk. We spent a few hours chatting about that fall’s upcoming election, in addition to the nationwide one looming in 2020. Jones was overtly involved about how quickly the Republican Celebration underneath Donald Trump was shedding any pretensions that they cared about democracy. He informed me he was satisfied that 2021 could be a pivotal yr for each Virginia and the nation as a complete.
“When one aspect is keen to toss all their morals, insurance policies, tradition, and historical past to win in any respect prices …” he informed me, trailing off ominously earlier than merely saying, “Properly.”
“Properly,” certainly. Once I caught up with Jones on the cellphone lately, he took no pleasure in his prescience; as a substitute, he strongly reaffirmed how necessary 2021 was shaping as much as be, with Commonwealth elections as soon as once more being a portent of the long run, “not simply right here in Virginia, however nationally.” It’s Virginia’s likelihood, he defined, “to essentially redefine who we’re and what we worth.”
One of many largest methods to do that, Jones informed me, and one thing he was proud to have championed throughout his time within the legislature, was to assist Virginia “look backwards” with regard to legal justice points. Wanting on the approach inequities have been written immediately into the regulation books and fixing them, he informed me, was an excellent first step, however up to now it’s solely been performed “piecemeal.” As a substitute, Jones informed me, “we actually must reassess the Code of Virginia” from the underside up, “to ensure that it is working for everyone, and never treating individuals in another way simply due to the colour of their pores and skin or the place they arrive from. Now we have a possibility right here to essentially pull the remnants of Jim Crow and the Black Codes out of our Code, totally.”
One other downside that Jones sees is that whereas the lawyer basic’s workplace is vitally necessary, most individuals do not know of the sorts of issues that AGs do to guard working Virginia households. To them, Richmond would possibly as properly be on Mars, actually and metaphorically, for the way far-off it feels from the “kitchen desk” points that matter to them. In a spot the place components of the state are nearer to eight different state capitals than its personal, Jones informed me, we have to reconnect on a regular basis Virginians with the nice that the lawyer basic’s workplace does for them.
That led Jones to suggest a collection of satellite tv for pc lawyer basic workplaces all throughout the Commonwealth, significantly “within the misplaced and forgotten areas, just like the Jap shore, like Southside, just like the Shenandoah Valley,” as a result of reconnecting on a regular basis Virginians with the nice authorities can do for them is important in incomes their buy-in for sustainable, constructive change. It’s additionally why Jones proposed the creation of a “Voter Safety and Election Integrity Unit” devoted to making sure that the suitable to vote is immutable, “as a result of the suitable to vote is sacred … and once we discuss civil rights, we won’t discuss that with out voting.”
The vigor with which Jones discusses the problems is accompanied by an unavoidable reality that’s introduced up often to somebody being requested to handle an workplace of 200 legal professionals and one other 150 skilled help workers. Jones, if elected at 32, will change into the youngest state lawyer basic in American historical past.
Jones did not flinch once I talked about this. “I’ve positively heard individuals say, ‘Jay, you are younger. Wait your flip!’” It was one thing, he informed me, he didn’t have an issue addressing—although he did admit to me that he couldn’t assist however surprise “if they’d say that to me if I wasn’t a younger Black man.”
“These seats, these workplaces,” Jones informed me significantly, noting that he meant from governor straight on down to highschool board, “they are not given. They don’t seem to be entitled to anybody particular person. They’re earned, a belief given by the individuals of the Commonwealth.” Anybody keen to work onerous sufficient to earn that belief, Jones stated, deserves to be thought of on their deserves; the issue, he informed me, is that traditionally, being informed to “wait your flip” was used as an incumbent safety technique. And “not your flip,” he identified, can shortly flip into, “Sorry, too late now, you waited too lengthy.”
“Virginia,” Jones informed me, “is the vanguard of the South, proper? Of the previous Confederacy.” The birthplace of American democracy and slavery. However previously decade, he stated, Virginia has taken up the mantle because the progressive bastion of the New South, placing into place “some insurance policies that I believe, even simply 4 or 5 years in the past, individuals would have regarded as unthinkable.”
However that progress is in jeopardy now, Jones informed me. We don’t must “fear about what’s taking place in Washington each single day,” because the present administration isn’t immediately engaged “in a endless disaster threatening to implode our republic.” However the ominous occasions of Jan. 6, the encroachment of a brand new Jim Crow, and the seemingly unconcerned (if not downright dismissive) perspective from a few of our personal supposed allies imply that we now have to make sure we will shield our individuals, the individuals of the Commonwealth of Virginia, “which is precisely what the lawyer basic’s workplace is about.”
Not solely does Virginia want a champion keen to combat unapologetically to maintain our individuals secure, however “we have by no means had a Black lawyer basic right here in Virginia,” Jones stated soberly. “I believe it is actually necessary for us to consider the prospect of getting somebody who appears like (the individuals) our justice system has oppressed for the final 400 years change into the face of that system. That sends a sign not simply to people in Virginia, however throughout the nation, about who we’re, what we worth, and the place we’re going.”
My full interview with Jones is properly value studying; his dialogue of his work on the Nationwide Ashanti Alert, specifically, was very attention-grabbing.
I’ll be brutally sincere right here: Regardless of being good mates with Jones, I used to be puzzled by the announcement he was operating for lawyer basic. His expertise, household legacy, and power lay out a transparent path to Congress, whereas his onerous work has already proven he can greater than earn the privilege of working for his constituents within the state legislature so long as he want to. However lawyer basic? Now? Our dialogue, although, put any concern I might need needed to relaxation, and I perceive utterly why Jones felt the necessity to eschew the “straightforward path” he might need taken, and stepped as much as run for lawyer basic.
I have never determined who I am voting for simply but, however I can say with out equivocation that in case you are a Virginia voter, Jay Jones completely deserves your consideration for the workplace of the lawyer basic of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Learn the total interview with Del. Jay Jones right here.
Go to his marketing campaign web site right here.
Learn earlier interviews with Virginia gubernatorial candidates right here, right here, and right here, and with one other candidate for lawyer basic right here.