McAuliffe’s pick for Va. Democratic party chairman wins post

RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s pick for state Democratic Party chairman won election to the post Saturday, overcoming initial opposition from gay rights activists who objected to the nominee’s stance on same-sex marriage.

The party’s State Central Committee elected Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones its chairman in a voice vote, with one “nay.”

The committee typically rubber stamps the sitting governor’s choice for party chairman, but activists initially pushed back against Jones, a part-time Baptist preacher who has not supported same-sex marriage.

The activists acknowledged that a party that touts its “big-tent” inclusiveness should have room for varied opinions on the subject, but they contend that the party’s leader should support same-sex marriage at a time when the issue has taken on great prominence in the state.

After state Attorney General Mark Herring (D) refused to defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban, a federal judge struck it down in February. The case is being appealed.

Activists dropped their opposition to Jones after meeting with the mayor Monday night. He assured them that he does not believe in discrimination against anyone and that his position on gay rights “continues to evolve.”

“I couldn’t be more honored to serve as the next chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia,” Jones said in written statement. “Having been a Democrat my whole life, I have seen the party grow to what it is today, a party that fights for issues important to all Virginians, issues like access to affordable health care, making sure women receive equal pay for equal work, and fighting to ensure all Virginians are treated equally across the Commonwealth.”

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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