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Dr. Chris Jones

Executive Director of Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub Dr. Christopher Jones speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

It's About Time (To Throw Out the Crooks and Liars and Rednecks)

Abby Zimet

If we can judge by the dazzling resume and powerhouse ad, there may yet be hope for politics, at least in Arkansas. Last week, Dr. Chris Jones, a black, eloquent, MIT-educated nuclear engineer, urban planner, Baptist minister, proud girl-Dad and 7th-generation Arkansan announced he's running for governor in a race now dominated by slimy lickspittle and professional charlatan Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who now faces what one un-fan deems "her worst nightmare - a POC who's better than her." Jones' family came to Arkansas, which has never elected an African American to a statewide office, in 1819. The son of two preachers, he grew up in Pine Bluff, with what he calls a strong sense of faith "only made stronger" by his love for science. Gifted a NASA Scholarship for physics and math, he attended Morehouse College, where he was student body president - to date his only formal political position - and hoped to become an astronaut. Grounded when he found he was deaf in one ear, he went to MIT and earned a Masters in nuclear physics and a Ph.D. in urban planning; he also served as  assistant dean for graduate studies, working to double minority enrollment. After becoming ordained as a minister, he returned to Arkansas and led the non-profit Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, where he saw "how disparities in the state had gotten worse, not better." Despite...everything about this country's recent and long-ago history, he insists he has faith in Arkansas' potential and is running "to ensure every person has an opportunity to succeed."

Jones got off to a blockbuster start with his first, elegant, hard-hitting campaign video, "About Time." Introducing his three daughters and wife Dr. Jerrilyn Jones - Air Force veteran, ER doctor, head of the state's Department of Health Preparedness -  he holds a pastoral stole to weave together past and present and argue, "(At) this moment in our nation's history...If we want our politics to be different, we have to be different." In a state that's seen only one other black candidate for governor - 100 years ago - in a country that's elected just two governors of color, he could face an uphill battle among several Democrats running against Sanders. Still, some political observers say he could ride a wave of recent victories by progressive black newcomers. And while Jones admirably argues he's not running against anything but for positive change, let's get real: While his stands on issues remain unclear, the harsh, dumb, venal, much-despised reality of Sanders, whose sole lame goal is to go after "the radical left," serves as a brutal wake-up-and-get-out-the-vote call. "If you don't (help) elect Chris Jones, we get Sarah Huckabee Sanders," writes one patriot. "Do you get it? So donate." Online, the campaign ad went viral; the eager consensus: "Vote Chris Jones for anything." Meanwhile, Jones focuses on high-minded unity: "I'm not running to fight a culture war or go on cable news. I'm here to bring Arkansans back together with a campaign that brings out our best." Many are elated. "You appear to be the politician and thinker and philosopher and poet I have longed for for my adult life," wrote "a fan of physics." "Please be real." "Thanks for joining the journey," Jones responded. "I'm real."

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, thinning the carrots, hauling too much water, experiencing true if ragged community, and writing. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. 

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