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Jay Jones Announces Bid for Attorney General

Jay Jones speaks behind podium against blue background
Jay Jones at a press conference in February (Craig Carper/VPM News)

Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) formally entered the race to become Virginia’s next attorney general on Monday, making him the first candidate to formally enter the fray.

The 31-year-old attorney has already racked up a long roster of endorsements, including a nod from Rep. Elaine Luria (D-2nd) and nearly all of the legislature’s Black caucus.

Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor is reportedly also  planning a run. She declined to confirm or deny that to VPM.

Jones is just five years removed from law school and three years from his 2017 election to the General Assembly. But he said his legislative experience, coupled with regular appearances as a trial lawyer and partner with the law firm of Bischoff Martingayle, has primed him for the job.

“I think the state and the country have demonstrated they’re ready for new leadership, for different voices, for fresh ideas,” Jones said.

Jones is perhaps best known for a 2019 speech he gave on the floor of the General Assembly documenting a history of racism faced by his family. He said defending access to healthcare, protecting the environment, and criminal justice reform would be top priorities.

“Who better to be the face of the justice system in Virginia than someone who looks like what that system has previously oppressed for 400 years?” Jones said.

Jones comes from a family of prominent Black leaders in Norfolk. His grandfather, Hilary Jones, Sr., was the first Black member of the Norfolk School Board and later, the State Board of Education. Jay’s father, Jerrauld C. Jones, represented the seat now held by Jay from 1988 – 2002, and later served in then-Gov. Mark Warner’s administration.

In this year’s session, Jones sponsored a bill that raised the minimum age a person could be charged as an adult for murder and several other crimes from 14 to 16. It was incorporated into a similar bill that was later signed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

He also led a bipartisan  push to step oversight of energy monopolies, including Dominion Energy. That bill fell ultimately short in an 8-7 Senate panel vote.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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