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Richmond Councilman To Challenge Del. Carr In Dem Primary

ichmond City Council member Michael Jones sitting at the dais in City Council chambers
FILE PHOTO: Richmond City Council member Michael Jones speaking from the the dais during a 2019 meeting. (Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Richmond City Council Member Michael Jones plans to primary Del. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond) next year.

Carr has represented the 69th House District, which covers large swaths of south Richmond and a sliver of Chesterfield County, since 2010 The house district overlaps with Richmond City Council’s 9th District in Southside, which Jones has represented since 2017. Jones is a founding pastor of Village of Faith Ministries and has taken an outsized role in recent debates around police reform. After the city saw a summer of near-nightly protests against racism and police brutality, he co-patroned local legislation to reexamine the police budget and ban the use of so-called ‘non-lethal’ weapons on protesters.  

In an exclusive interview with VPM, Jones said he believes Carr has not taken advantage of the current political moment, where Democratic voters locally and nationally are calling for a reckoning on systematic racism. He said he wants to be a progressive voice in Virginia’s House of Delegates.

“This is where our city is, this is where our state is, this is where our country is,” he said. “Legislators who are not addressing that actively — not just ‘Oh, I want to be an ally,’ but actively crafting your own legislation and your own direction — that’s what I believe is needed.”

Jones received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado Boulder, but he attended the historically Black Virginia Union University to obtain his master of divinity degree. He was the lone advocate three years ago for removing Richmond’s Confederate monuments, which City Council approved after the mass protests this summer. 

Carr, a white woman, represents a district that is 58 percent Black and 12 percent Latino. Parts of the district, particularly along Richmond Highway (formerly Jefferson Davis Highway), also have some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the city.

“When you look at Carr’s record, it doesn’t necessarily match a district that is majority Black and brown,” Jones said.

In the 2020 General Assembly session, Carr was a chief sponsor of legislation to remove penalties for people who report a drug overdose and create an affordable housing dwelling unit program for localities.

In a statement, Carr said she welcomed the challenge and planned to run a “vigorous and energetic” campaign. 

“I am proud of my work with my diverse constituents  - from expanding healthcare to job creation to protecting our environment, supporting women, providing equal opportunity and justice for all, advocating for criminal justice reform and gun safety,” Carr said.

Prior to her run for the state legislature, Carr was a one-term member of the Richmond School Board representing the 5th District. She easily beat out Republican challenger Ernesto Sampson for the House of Delegates seat in the 2009 general election.

Since then, Carr has gone without much of a serious challenge in the strongly Democratic 69th District. She did not have a Democratic primary challenger in the last two election cycles. Republicans also have not run a candidate against her in the general election in the last decade.

This will be Jones’ first run for higher office, something he sees as an advantage rather than a hindrance.

“We are a Dillon Rule state,” Jones said. “We have so many things in our legislative packet on council that are going over to the General Assembly and those are things I would champion: the affordable housing, landlord restrictions, we have a major eviction crisis in the 69th [District] and something has to be done about that.”

Jones said he plans to officially announce his run for the House of Delegates in mid-January. While state law prohibits local candidates from running in multiple elections, Jones already secured re-election in November, meaning he will not have to give up his current spot on Richmond City Council to run. Jones said he plans to continue to serve on city council during the primary challenge.

A date for the 2021 state primaries has not yet been set. District boundaries are also likely to shift during a redistricting process set to begin next year.