On paper, the two Democrats running for the 89th District House seat in Norfolk share a lot in common.
Joe Dillard and Jay Jones both spent most of their lives in the district. Jones left to attend the College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia; Dillard’s family moved from Richmond when he was 6.
Both tend to agree on policy priorities: more and better jobs, more funding for public schools, making college affordable, more attention to sea level rise, and a dedicated funding source for public transit. Both want to see light rail expanded.
Both are proud to be candidates who are millennials and people of color. Both want to engage constituents on social media.
Both are 28 and that means either would be among the youngest lawmakers in the General Assembly next year (Del. Lashrecse Aird of Petersburg will be 31; a younger Democrat is also running in the Republican-heavy district of Stafford County and Fredericksburg).
Both believe they’d be able to work across the aisle to find compromise in a Republican-dominated House.
Both have political science or government degrees. Jones graduated from law school at U.Va.; Dillard is working on a graduate degree at Norfolk State University.
Both have been in and around the capitol scene in Richmond.
Dillard, a Hampton Roads Transit lobbyist and Norfolk NAACP president, has worked with lawmakers in Richmond the past four years. He says he’s already built valuable relationships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers.
He’s running because he wants younger voices in the General Assembly and feels he can hit the ground running.
Jones, an employment lawyer with Willcox Savage, was a General Assembly page and as a college student worked in the offices of former Dels. Paula Miller and Algie Howell. Those in the 89th District likely recognize his dad’s name: Jerrauld C. Jones, who served as the district’s delegate from 1988 to 2002. He learned plenty from that experience, too.
He grew up in a civic-minded family, and that’s partly why he’s running: His grandfather was the first black member of the Norfolk School Board, his mom was a prosecutor and is now a judge.
But where do they differ?
Dillard said it comes down to experience. He’s worked in the capitol for four years, knows the process and is ready to hit the ground running. In an interview, he was quick to bring out stats backing up his positions.
Dillard supports a $15 minimum wage and decriminalizing marijuana.
Jones said his campaign theme is “opportunity for everyone.” He wants to represent all people in a diverse district – black, white, old, young, poor, rich, gay, straight.
Jones supports a gradual, responsible increase in minimum wage, and said he would like the marijuana issue to be left to a vote of the people.
Jones has raised nearly four times the amount of campaign money as Dillard has, according to the Virginia Public Access Project: $145,509 versus Dillard’s $32,717. Jones’ flyers have regularly landed in district residents’ mailbox for the past few weeks.
The seat, dominated by Democrats for decades, is open after Del. Daun Sessoms Hester decided to run for Norfolk City Treasurer. Hester has not endorsed either candidate.
Earlier this year, Norfolk’s Democratic Party chairman offered Dillard least $5,000 to instead run for School Board. A special prosecutor assigned to the matter decided it did not amount to bribery since the party chair didn’t ask Dillard for any special favors for him in office.
Andy Protogyrou told The Pilot that the chairman’s job is to seek the best candidates and that it’s routine for parties to urge people to run for certain offices.
There are no declared Republican candidates. Libertarian candidate Terry Hurst will be on the ballot in November.
The 89th District is entirely in the city of Norfolk and includes the Larchmont, Berkley, Ghent and Riverview neighborhoods, among others.