A Manassas area U.S. Army veteran wants to take on the Virginia House of Delegates.
Jeff Dove, 39, is seeking the Republican nomination to run for the open seat in the 51st District, which covers central and southwestern Prince William County.
The seat is currently held by Del. Hala Ayala, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and said she will not run for re-election to a two-year term in the House. Ayala has endorsed Democrat Briana Sewell, chief of staff to Prince William County Board Chair Ann Wheeler, to replace her.
Dove joins Tim Cox as announced Republican candidates for the seat. The nominee will be determined in a June 8 primary.
Dove, who works in information technology for a defense contractor, was born in Silver Spring, Md., and moved to Woodbridge in 2010. In 2020, he relocated to the Manassas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.
Dove served three years in the Army and received a Combat Action Badge during his service in the Iraq War. After his service, he earned a bachelor’s degree in information systems database administration from Strayer University.
Dove said his campaign will focus on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, helping small business, education reform and investment in transportation infrastructure.
Dove faulted Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration for its response to the pandemic as the state was lagging in testing early on and the vaccine rollout has been marred by controversy and inequities. He said Northam’s regulations to curb the spread of the virus weren’t enforced equally and hit small businesses harder.
“Everything was being done poorly and that comes from the top,” he said.
Dove advocated for loosening the regulations that allow for charter schools to open in Virginia. He also supports a school choice system that allows parents to direct their tax dollars toward a school they choose for their child, rather than just the one assigned by their district.
Dove supports bringing students back into schools and criticized teachers’ associations for slowing the process.
“It’s almost like the school boards across the state are hamstrung in what they can do,” he said.
Dove said investing in infrastructure is a bipartisan issue. He said the state should focus on rehabilitation work on deteriorating roads, overpasses and bridges.
Dove’s first attempt at elected office was as a Republican challenger to longtime U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-11th, in 2018 for the district covering parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties. Connolly handily won with 71% of the vote.
In 2020, Dove sought the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District, which stretches from Fairfax County to Clarke County. The party selected its nominee at a convention and Dove finished last among four candidates. U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Leesburg, held onto the seat in November.
Dove said he’s worked with the Republican National Committee to boost other Black candidates like himself to diversify the party’s representation. “I think it’s important we try to foster this type of diversity across the field.”
Republicans held the 51st District seat from 2008 to 2018, but Ayala unseated former Del. Richard Anderson in the 2017 election and defeated him again in 2019. She won the latter race with about 55% of the vote.
Cox, a Woodbridge U.S. Navy veteran, is also seeking the Republican nomination to run for the seat. He has submitted paperwork for ballot access while Dove is still in the process. Sewell is the only candidate to declare on the Democratic side.
The deadline to file for a party primary is March 25. Independent and third-party candidates have until June 8 to submit ballot signatures and paperwork to the state for the November election.