A surprising hurdle for Dwight Jones

March 10, 2014

By any measure, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones should be on a roll.

He won plaudits for helping to lure the Washington Redskins to train in Richmond. He put together a deal in 2012 and got tourism-focused facilities built on time in 2013. By most accounts the whole thing was a success, generating $10.5 million in economic impact for the city last summer.

He’s been trying to address the capital city’s stubborn poverty, which plagues 26 percent of the city’s population.

And, he’s making progress with a new stadium for the minor league Flying Squirrels baseball team that would be part of a $79.7 million mixed-use development, along with a new slave-heritage museum in the city’ historic Shockoe Bottom District.  The old stadium’s site would be used for housing and retail in a city whose downtown sorely lacks decent stores.

That’s what makes his current flap difficult to understand. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has asked Jones to become chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Sounds like a shoo-in. But maybe not.

Jones, a part-time Baptist minister, has supported gay and lesbian rights for city employees but shies away from giving his personal blessing to gay marriage. That’s a sensitive position because a federal judge in Norfolk has ruled that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

The gay community is understandably cheering that big win, but it has put Jones and McAuliffe in a bind. Jones has said he will back whatever the law says but prefers to keep his current views on same-sex marriage to himself.

My view is to leave Jones alone. He’s still a considerable improvement over other politicians in the state who do whatever they can to bash gays. Just four years ago, former attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli  was drawing fire for refusing to extend protection to gays employed by the state.

Jones is certainly lot more enlightened than that.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon’s Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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