ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - Eyebrows were raised in Virginia's socially liberal circles recently when Gov. Terry McAuliffe nominated Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones to serve as the state's next Democratic chairman, if only because of the latter's stated reluctance to embrace the concept of same-sex marriage.
But Jones, a Baptist minister, has been reaching out to - and meeting with -- members of the LGBT community the past couple of days, stressing his views have "evolved" since flatly disagreeing with President Barack Obama's support for gay marriage.
This ahead of the party's election Saturday in Richmond.
Jones also sent a letter to various party leaders detailing his steadfast commitment to equality. He has been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, who is refusing to defend the state's contention that gay marriage is unconstitutional.
Count Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) among Jones' supporters, as well. Sickles, who amid a crowded field is running for Jim Moran's soon-to-be vacant congressional seat, announced last month that he's "a proud, gay man," in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post.
Asked Tuesday night after a community meeting at Bush Hill Elementary School about Jones' nomination, Sickles didn't hesitate to provide a thumbs-up.
"Dwight is a friend of mine," he said. "I think he's got a great heart. He's going to win Saturday, and I look forward to working with him."
No problems with Jones' "evolving" attitude toward same-sex marriage?
"No, no, not at all," Sickles said. "Look, I think marriage equality is going to be constitutionally required in a very short time, and he has pledged to uphold everybody's constitutional rights. He's been very open to the LGBT community in Richmond, done a lot of good things there, and I'm hoping for the best."
Jones issued a statement earlier this week after meeting with representatives of several LGBT organizations:
""I reiterated my position that I believe our laws should not be discriminatory. I also had the opportunity to share about my own personal evolution on issues that concern the LGBT community; an evolution that anchors many of the actions I've already taken in support of equal treatment. My position continues to evolve."