Until Monday, the only thing I knew about the Arkansas gubernatorial race was that Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had thrown his hat in the ring. I was quite prepared to ignore the Trump-infused circus that ensued over the next two years. But then I saw a video cross my Twitter timeline. Two minutes and 37 seconds later, I was convinced that this was perhaps one of the most interesting campaigns in the country.
Dr Chris Jones announced his candidacy for governor June 15. As I learned in his campaign announcement video, Jones has been a true nuclear physicist and ordained minister since 2017. He attended Morehouse College on a NASA scholarship and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his graduate studies. And now he’s running to replace Limited-Term Governor Asa Hutchinson as head of state his family has lived in for eight generations.
Political candidates, especially newbies, are encouraged to understand the story they want to tell voters. The best versions draw inspiration from both biography and politics, blending them into a personal narrative that the candidate believes will continue into how they govern or legislate. And Jones’ team got this one out of the park.
As I sat down a bit more with the video, I really realized how amazing Jones’ resume is – and what it says about black candidates for statewide positions.
I was absolutely amazed by the brilliant use of his video preacher’s stole to illustrate the passage of time, coupled with his explanation that “as a physicist I know time is also relative – and with the right application of energy, you can bend it. “This transition to a timeline of her family’s roots in the state and the emotions she conveyed was relevant; the use of images from January 6 to illustrate the trauma we experienced was also extremely well deployed.
But as I sat down a bit more with the video, I really understood how amazing Jones’ resume is – and what it says about black candidates for a statewide job. .
Consider that Jones, just five years after graduating with this dual masters degree in nuclear engineering and technology and policy from MIT, he was made principal of the school. assistant dean for graduate students. He earned his doctorate from MIT while managing a multi-million dollar budget as executive director of Boston’s Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. He ran a nonprofit, the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, which, as The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette put him in a Jones profile “Fosters and encourages innovative ideas and creates opportunities for entrepreneurs, students and other decision makers” in the state until he resigns to run for governor.
It also ticks all the boxes that we don’t say a black man running for office must have – but they absolutely do. Jones is overly educated, well beyond the average white candidate. His wife, Dr Jerrilyn Jones, and their daughters feature prominently in the ad – no single, libertine African American here, just a healthy upper-middle-class family. His last role was about jobs and businesses and other respectable capitalist ventures, not something confusing as a “community organizer”. And the issues it focuses on – education, infrastructure, and “living our values” – are solidly halfway, not too progressive – or too, well, black – for Arkansan voters.
(Jerrilyn, I should add, is almost as incredibly well-accredited as her husband – she’s an Air Force veteran and Harvard Medical School graduate who is currently an emergency physician and is the medical director of preparedness in the Department of Arkansas health. Together, their careers are like what an enthusiastic kindergarten child would say when asked what she wants to be when she grows up.)
It also ticks all the boxes that we don’t say a black man running for office must have – but they absolutely do.
Jones’s video went viral shortly after it aired, drawing attention to a race that was not lacking national attention. Former President Donald Trump has has already approved his former staff member, who also has the benefit of being the daughter of former Governor Mike Huckabee. Sanders ‘name recognition in the state has given him an early lead over the other Republican in the race, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, but it will be interesting to see how Jones’ glaring entry changes things. .
Black contestants have historically struggled to win races statewide, as noted by Charles E. Jones and Judson Jeffries in their 2006 article on campaigns for Governor and the United States Senate. Since the publication of this article, we have seen a slight increase in the number of black candidates to win these races, including Senator Raphael Warnock, D-Geo., Who like Jones had never held an elected office before. But if Dr Jones wins the primary, it will be a tough climb for him in a state dominated by Republicans.
But here’s another twist that makes the Arkansas election one to watch over the next few months: Jones isn’t the only member of his family seeking a high-profile job statewide. His brother, Leon Jones, Jr., is candidate for the post of attorney general in 2022 – as a republican.
Leon was, until recently, the head of the state’s Fair Housing Commission, having been appointed locally by Governor Hutchinson. Before that it was Arkansas Department of Labor’s first black lead, noted his campaign shortly after announcing his race. He is running in the general election against the current Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin.
So, to sum it up: a nuclear physicist / priest is competing in a race where there is a non-zero chance that voters in Arkansas will not only elect the first black men to hold these positions in the state, but that they will not. disagree on the policy. For my part, I will follow this race very closely.