Donny Jones steps up 57th campaign
Donald “Donny” Anthony Jones, Republican primary candidate for West Virginia’s 57th legislative district seat, pauses before he lets a reporter into his residence to issue a joking warning, saying in a southern West Virginian accent “we’ll probably walk in on my roommate still sleeping.”
Sure enough, as soon as Jones opens the door to his Kennamond Hall dorm room his roommate, a photography major named Mike, rouses from a slumber and saunters out as Jone’s hastily readies his room for the reporter.
Jones, 19 years old, is also a freshman at Shepherd University. He hails from Kenna in Jackson County. It’s about a four-and-a-half hour drive from Shepherdstown to Kenna, if you stop for gas, according to Jones.
Why is he running for the statehouse at this young an age and this far away from Jackson County? Simple, says Jones, “I’m tired of sitting back and listening, I want to get involved.”
In addition to his righteous conservative political indignation, Jones also has a firm belief that a return to fiscally and socially conservative principles can help solve many of West Virginia’s problems.
But, before Jones makes it to Charleston, he has to first win the primary on May 11. If he can pull that off, Jones still needs to find a local apartment for the summer so that he can meet residency requirements to hold office. Candidates have to be registered members of their party, living in one district, for a full year before they can hold office. Jones, if he finds summer housing, will meet those requirements next August.
Jones believes that lower taxes on individual citizens and small businesses will lead to prosperity. “They’ll be able to keep more money in their pocket, and they’ll be able to spend it at the businesses that do pay taxes,” explains Jones in an interview in his dorm earlier this week.
Jones says that he wants to eliminate sales taxes on locally grown food products. He predicts that such a measure could win bipartisan support, attracting fiscal conservatives concerned with taxation and economic progressives who are concerned with, as Jones terms it, “the little guy.”
Jones also touches on tougher sentencing for sex offenders, and historic preservation, which he says can increase tourism in West Virginia. The latter issue is an extension of one of Jone’s hobbies: re-enacting the Civil War. Jones, a history buff, is a founding member the Ripley Civil War Heritage Committee and a member of the 36th Virginia Infantry, Company A, more widely known as the Confederate Buffalo Guard.
“I tried falling in with any regiment that would take me,” says Jones, but due to his young age, Jones ended up in a Confederate unit. Jones quickly, and without provocation, dismisses any concerns that his involvement in a Confederate re-enactment unit is somehow a subconscious expression of racism.
“It’s just a hobby, it helps out our economy and it encourages people to come to our parks. If it means being a Confederate, well, someones gotta do it.” After all, says Jones, if there are no confederates, there’s no battle.
Jones admits his campaign is going slowly. He has not appeared at a single debate or candidate forum. This he chalks up to car troubles and miscommunication with local political organizations. His campaign currently has about $200 in the bank, after starting out with so little money that he did not need to file a pre-campaign finance report.
Jones bemoans that his campaign has gotten so little press so far in the campaign. Staff at the Chronicle attempted to contact Jones early on in the primary race so that he could submit a weekly column on his campaign, yet Jones did not reply until this week. Only after leaving a note under his dorm room door on April 16 did Jones respond to requests for interviews.
Also, his geographic separation from Jackson County has hampered his campaign. “Not many people really know me up here.”
Jones says that he is sorely in need of monetary donations and volunteer work. He recently ordered some campaign signs, which he plans on distributing throughout the district.
Jones also says that the Jefferson County Republican Party has made no effort to help him, but he reports that the Berkeley County Republican Party has helped him get his campaign off the ground.
At Ripley High School, Jones rose to the rank of president of the Young Republicans club. His father and mother both work at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Charleston. Jones says he first was inspired to a career in politics through a random childhood encounter with Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood at the Marmet Labor Day parade. Underwood, who holds the honor of being both the youngest and oldest person ever to serve as Governor of West Virginia, gave up his spot in the parade and spoke with the young Jones at length as the parade rolled on.
“He came over, made me feel really special, not caring about that he had lost his place in the parade, just talking about anything and everything,” says Jones. “That made me feel really special.”