Herb Jones: Health care important in run

Published 9:56 pm Thursday, October 31, 2019

Senate District 3

The majority of District 3 is made up from three counties — James City, Gloucester and York County on the Peninsula. New Kent and Isle of Wight counties make up just under 10 percent of the district, each, while it also includes parts of King William County, as well as small parts of Poquoson and Suffolk.

Herb Jones said he decided to run for Senate District 3 seat primarily because of health care. And incumbent Republican Tommy Norment’s answer to Jones’ question at a New Kent County town hall played a part in that.

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“When the Affordable Care Act was passed, it just made sense for Virginia to sign up … and I just didn’t understand why we didn’t take advantage of it,” Jones said.

At the meeting, Jones recalled Norment touting his record in the General Assembly before asking why he didn’t support Medicaid expansion. Hearing Norment tell him it was a financial decision didn’t sit well with Jones.

Jones, who served previously as the New Kent County treasurer and served in the Army as an officer for 30 years — two of those in combat — had considered running for the Board of Supervisors before he was asked to attend some meetings of the Williamsburg-area Indivisible Group. At those meetings, he regularly heard people asking for someone to run against Norment.

“I kind of had an out-of-body experience one day at one of these meetings,” Jones said. “I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ And before I could take those words back, everybody was like, ‘You’re going to be a great candidate.’ So it was an evolution. It was something I was thinking about. Once I got in … that’s when I learned that we had forfeited $12 million in federal funds by not taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act.”

Jones said he would look at raising the income level so more people could qualify for Medicaid.

“I believe that everybody should have health care,” Jones said. “And you shouldn’t have to make a decision between paying your bills, your rent, putting food on the table, and health care. That’s just wrong.”

On guns, Jones said he does not want to take someone’s guns away, but that to reduce gun violence, he wants to see universal background checks and firearms training for gun owners.

He said that if someone owns a weapon, that person should have liability insurance, adding that the first four words of the Second Amendment, “A well-regulated militia,” “tells us that weapons have to be regulated.”

Jones said he also wants to see more job creation, but rather than support a specific minimum wage amount, he advocates for a minimum wage tied to the consumer price index.

He wants to see more creativity in job creation and more efforts in renewable energy, the regulation of marijuana use for adults and increasing broadband access, which he said is affordable, but it’s a matter of shifting priorities away from other areas.

Jones said he has also had conversations with Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam following college yearbook photos that allegedly showed Northam in blackface. The governor later denied that it was him in the photo, and an investigation was inconclusive as to whether it was him.

Jones said he got his perspective about Northam’s controversial yearbook photos through the lessons his parents taught him about their own upbringing.

“My parents showed us that there are situations that you have to face because it’s just the way things are,” Jones said. “But you can’t stop trying and you can’t let that derail you from what you’re trying to do.”

He said that when his mother was eight or nine years old, her father was lynched. But his mother did not share this with him or his brothers until after they all had gone through college and had gotten married.

Jones asked his parents why they waited so long to tell their children.

“She knew that if she told us when we were 15 or 16, we probably would have gone out and tore up some stuff,” Jones said.

That story, he said, provides context for his thoughts about Northam.

At age 61, Jones is a year older than Northam and said they grew up during the same period when movies like the raunchy “Animal House” were popular. He said the governor’s body of work says more about him than does his college years.

To Jones, it doesn’t matter whether Northam was in the photos or not. He said he judges Northam on his body of work.

“It was stupid, and it was dumb. The way the governor handled it was inarticulate and a little bit sloppy,” Jones said. “But I’d rather have somebody who’s not quite as polished and showing some vulnerability, and showing some remorse for what happened, versus somebody who was like, ‘Yeah, I did it, so what,’ or somebody who displays those tendencies today. Gov. Northam, when you look at his whole body of work and what he has done, I didn’t think he needed to resign. And I came out publicly and I said that.”

Northam’s resignation, Jones said, wouldn’t have gotten anyone closer to solving the race issue.

“If he’s in office, he understands the hurt that people who look like me have gone through and our families have gone through in the last 400 years of being in America,” Jones said. “He’s going to work harder to try to help fix some of these issues that we have, and I think that’s the right approach.”

Jones said he offers a clear contrast to Norment, who he says has gotten too powerful. He said he has been working with Democrats in adjacent districts in an effort to flip control of the House of Delegates from Republican to Democrat. He said he is approachable and plans to stay that way.

“I’m not doing this for fame and fortune,” Jones said. “I’m doing this because I care about Virginia. I love Virginia and I care about people. And I’m going to represent the people in the Third Senatorial District and people across the Commonwealth of Virginia. When I’m in office, I expect people to hold me accountable.”