A Norfolk lawmaker whose family has a deep history of supporting civil rights is officially running for attorney general next year.
Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, announced Monday that he’s seeking the post after deliberating for several months. He’s the first candidate from either party to formally enter the race.
“Today, I am announcing that I’m running for Attorney General of our great Commonwealth, not just because it is time for a new generation of leadership, but because it is time for a Commonwealth that embraces everyone and lifts everyone, no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you look like,” Jones said in a statement.
He’s received more than 60 endorsements already, his campaign said, including Rep. Elaine Luria, D-2nd, seven state senators and 26 members of the House of Delegates.
Jones, 31, would succeed Mark Herring, a former state senator who assumed the state’s top law enforcement officer job in 2014 in a close race against Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, and won re-election in 2017. Herring is running for governor next year.
Jones is a lawyer at Bischoff Martingayle in Norfolk. He’s an alumnus of the College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia.
If elected, Jones would be Virginia’s first Black attorney general.
“Jay represents a new generation of leadership in our Commonwealth that is committed to progressing our Commonwealth forward,” said Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. “As the first African American woman to serve as president pro-tempore of the Virginia Senate, I could not be more honored to support Jay’s campaign to serve as Virginia’s first African American Attorney General.”
In 2017, he was elected to represent Virginia’s 89th House District, a seat his father, Jerrauld Jones, now a Norfolk circuit court judge, held from 1988-2002. His grandfather, Hilary H. Jones Jr., helped challenge Massive Resistance as a prominent civil rights lawyer.
He spoke of his family’s history in February 2019 when the state’s top three leaders found themselves embroiled in scandal. Jones’ floor speech in the House of Delegates received a standing ovation.
His grandfather, he shared, wanted to be an attorney but couldn’t attend law school in Virginia because Black people weren’t allowed at all-white schools. In 1960, Jones’ father and his two brothers integrated an elementary school in Norfolk, where they were greeted with racist chants.
“This decision is truly generations in the making,” Jones said Monday. “Five generations ago, my ancestors were freed from the shackles of slavery. Just two generations ago, my grandfather endured systematic racism and discrimination on his journey to becoming a pioneering Black lawyer in Virginia. And in 1960 my father and my uncle were two of the first Black students to attend an all-white elementary school in Norfolk, Virginia.”
Among the lawmakers backing Jones are Dels. Lamont Bagby of Henrico, Jeff Bourne of Richmond and Schuyler VanValkenburg of Henrico, and Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond. Richmond City Council members Michael Jones and Stephanie Lynch also endorsed Jones.
“Jay Jones has all of the tools that will be required when he is attorney general,” Bourne said. “Virginia is at a crossroads. We need a new voice with new solutions to old problems that have plagued our Commonwealth for too long.”
Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor, a Democrat, is exploring a run for the post.
Jones announced last week that he’s raised more than $255,000 already for his campaign.