Meet Marques Jones, a Democrat looking to face State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant of Henrico

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By Brandon Jarvis

Marques Jones is running to unseat the Republican incumbent Siobhan Dunnavant of Henrico in November of 2019. The district that Dunnavant currently represents stretches from the western border of Richmond across western Henrico and parts of Hanover.

Jones is the former Chairman of the Henrico County Democratic Committee. He recently announced that he was stepping down to focus his time and energy on this Senate campaign. While Jones has only served as the Chairman since December, he served as the vice-chair in the previous two years.

Jones was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis back in 2008. He grew up an athlete with parents and siblings that all played sports. He says he only missed four days of school from 7th grade to graduation. He told us that he never felt sick – but now he’s facing a life changing illness.

He hasn’t let that slow him down.

He talks about the night soon after he was diagnosed when he woke his wife up to tell her that she didn’t sign up to take care of him for the rest of their life. “I asked her if she wanted a divorce, and I even told her, if you do, you can tell people that its my fault.” Jones says didn’t want her to feel boxed in by it. The next moment was a turning point after the diagnosis. “She said I was stupid and punched me in the shoulder, then turned over and went to bed.”

That was when he realized that if other people are willing to fight for him, then he has to be willing to fight. He eventually gave up his corporate position with Capitol One and started his own business helping people with chronic diseases and disabilities.

Jones says he left the corporate world to so that he could help others. In August of 2017, he founded his own company called ComForCare Home Care of Northwest Richmond. They help seniors and others living with challenges live independently in their own home. Jones says that while he enjoyed his job at Capitol one, he has a “more direct-positive impact on his community.”

He emphasized the importance of being emotionally invested in your career. “The most successful people are that ones that would still be doing their job even if they weren’t getting paid.”

Marques says he doesn’t believe that he would be in politics today if it wasn’t for the MS diagnosis.

He was initially introduced to politics when he was the chair of the Government Relations Advisory Committee in Virginia for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In this position, he worked with legislators on all levels for causes that helped improve the lives of people that have chronic illnesses and disabilities.

In 2016, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe named Marques to the board of Virginia’s Assistive Technology Loan Fund Authority.

Now, he is focused on bringing more progressive policy views to the 12th district.

 Marques serves as a regional team lead with the advocacy group Health Care for All
Virginians supporting the idea that all Virginia residents deserve access to quality health care. The healthcare field is something that Marques works to improve on a daily basis. Here are some of the other areas that he wants to help reform.

ERA: He wants to make sure that Virginia ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment. Jones says he has four sisters, and three daughters. “It’s hard for me to believe that in 2018 we still have to have a discussion about Virginia ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. We need to send a message to society that it is not acceptable that women make pennies on the dollar to their male counterparts. It’s not acceptable that women aren’t sitting in more boardrooms. I want to send a message that whatever we are doing right now still isn’t working.”

Education: Both of his parents are educators. He wants to address the discrepancies for children whose parents can’t afford to send them to preschool programs. He points out that children are beginning their education behind others, in turn making it harder for children to want try and excel in school. “It start’s there.”

Jones wants education reform to be viewed as one-level playing field, not with a separation between preschool, k-12, and college.

He also wants to better compensate teachers, along with ensuring that classrooms have the basic supplies to teach without having to pay out of their pocket. “How do you attract talented teachers if you can’t compensate them the way they need to be compensated?”

Many highschoolers these days are weighing the benefits of college with the debt that will incur by paying for it. Jones wants to address that. “Every year I see an RTD article where they are raising the tuition. I am not knocking VCU, I know they have a budget and have to pay teachers. But,  I don’t know how a middle class family comes out of pocket to pay for it.”

Jones also wants to make sure we fully fund the school system to help not only on the teachers but to provide better “educational experiences”. He puts a big emphasis on extra-curriculars helping kids have an outlet to “express themselves and be who they are.”

Criminal justice reform: He wants to get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing, abolish private prisons, and decriminalize marijuana.

When we asked if he supports full legalization of marijuana, he said “The first step is lets stop locking people up.” Jones says he also wants the Federal Government to reschedule marijuana so that more research can be done on the effects.  “African Americans and whites use marijuana at the same rates African Americans are locked more often, just that by itself, shows you that we need to think about do this differently. A kid makes a mistake when they are 16 years, and that leaves marks for the rest of their lives. They can’t get jobs, it keeps them from growing as people. Let’s start by decriminalizing, then study and look at what is happening in the states that have fully legalized it. Learn from what they are doing, then look at how we can implement that.” Jones says coming from a background in science, he likes to look at numbers and be pragmatic in his decisions.

Jones is expecting multiple members of his party to jump at the chance to face Dunnavant next year. It won’t be until mid-2019 until we find out which candidate will receive the nomination.

Marques says this isn’t an ego thing. “This is truly me trying to use my experiences, growing up in a small town, going to a mainline college, going into the working world and making my way and dealing with obstacles like being diagnosed and bringing these diverse experiences to a venue that doesn’t always have a diverse perspective. I bring a diverse and different experience to the table.”

Follow Marques Jones here.

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