Pine Bluff native son Chris Jones announced his bid for governor in the same place where he set the stage for a boundless career as a nuclear engineer, urban planner and educator: at the Jefferson County Library.
Jones, 44, said he wants to rebuild infrastructure, invest in health care and education and create more and better jobs.
“We have the talent, we have the potential, now it’s about the leadership,” he said.
Jones was introduced by two childhood friends, neither of whom were surprised that Jones wants to lead his home state. Both lauded his teamwork, tenacity and passion.
After leaving Arkansas to earn five degrees from two vaunted institutions (Morehouse and MIT), Jones returned with his equally accomplished wife, Alabama native Dr. Jerrilyn Jones, who described her husband as “the proudest Arkansan I know.” The couple lives in Little Rock with their three daughters, ages 12, 8 and 4.
While his political experience is limited to a term as student body president during his senior year at Morehouse, his experience in a dizzying number of other fields is not. His eclectic resume includes jobs as assistant dean at MIT, public school teacher and nonprofit director. Most recently, Chris Jones ran the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock for three years before stepping down this spring.
As a Democrat in a red state, he acknowledged that running for office will be tough.
“It’s hard, but what’s harder is seeing some of the challenges that folks face on a day-to-day basis, the missed opportunities of kids who aren’t reading at grade level, the bridges about to collapse,” he said. “It’s harder to sit on the sidelines when you see that kind of stuff than to get in the game.”
As is the case for Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Jones has never held public office.
“I’ve never run for office before. My father wasn’t governor,” he said. “In fact, no governor has ever looked like me.” Indeed, Arkansas has never had a Black governor.
Jones invited his supporters to apply some mathematical concepts to his campaign, specifically the exponential growth formula. He asked every donor to bring 50 more donors on board, and for every voter to bring 100 fellow voters with them to the polls.
Jones joins two other candidates, Supha Xayprasith-Mays and James Russell, who already announced their runs for the Democratic bid for governor. On the Republican side, Sanders and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will face off in the primary in May 2022.