A key House district left up for grabs by January’s court-ordered redistricting will feature a fight between House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, and Suffolk-area real estate agent Clint Jenkins.
The party’s local Democratic committee confirmed Tuesday that just one candidate, Jenkins, had filed to participate in a scheduled caucus for the party’s nomination in the 76th House District.
Democrats’ lack of interest in running for the seat and Jenkins’ late fundraising start are notable in a district that, thanks to redistricting, now presents more favorable statistical odds for Democrats as they aim to take control of the House of Delegates. All 100 House seats are on the ballot in November. Republicans now hold a two-seat edge in the chamber.
Jones, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was first elected to the seat in 1997, and previously served four years as Suffolk mayor and 12 years on the City Council. He had $605,416 in his campaign account at the end of last year.
Of the six districts that shifted to blue after January’s court-appointed redistricting, Jones’ district ranks third at 58 percent Democrat according to the Virginia Public Access Project. It also saw the second largest swing in that direction among the two-dozen districts that were reconfigured; 20,400 voters are new to that district.
House Republicans’ appeal of the decision to impose the new map is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which could rule at any time.
“It’s a big map this year and we have lots of seats that we think are in play. This will certainly be one of them,” said Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, the campaign chair for the House Democratic Caucus.
Leslie Rinaldi, the chairwoman of the Suffolk Democratic Committee, said in an interview that the party fielded a lot of interest in the seat but ultimately saw only Jenkins file to run by the March 3 deadline.
Jenkins is the chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District Committee.
In 2014, he ran for Suffolk City Council unsuccessfully. He attracted 24 percent of the vote, finishing third in a three-way race. He raised just under $4,000 next to the winner’s $12,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Jenkins’ wife, Karen Jenkins, was elected last November to the Suffolk School Board.
Jenkins last week posted ads advertising jobs for campaign manager and finance director.