Former GOP staffer running for Virginia delegate knows not to knock the ‘swamp’

Hill experience isn’t a liability for D.J. Jordan on the campaign trail

Former Hill staffer D.J. Jordan, here at a July Fourth parade in Daly City, Va., is running for the Virginia House of Delegates. (Courtesy D.J. Jordan)
Former Hill staffer D.J. Jordan, here at a July Fourth parade in Daly City, Va., is running for the Virginia House of Delegates. (Courtesy D.J. Jordan)
Posted July 19, 2019 at 6:00am

When D.J. Jordan was a Hill staffer, his drive into the city took an hour and 15 minutes, and that was on a good day. He turned to the fine art of slugging — picking up fellow commuters at designated parking lots to reach a quorum for the HOV-3 express lanes.

“It has literally been my personal nightmare,” Jordan said. “I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve missed family dinner and missed my son’s football practice and missed my daughter’s dance rehearsal or recital because I’m stuck in traffic.”

It’s just one of the suburban battles he’s fought alongside Virginia voters in Prince William and Fauquier counties — and he’s going to have a lot more to say about it before November.

Jordan is running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 31st District. He’s a Republican who believes you can “do more and make a bigger impact in local office,” but that doesn’t mean he’s trying to downplay his decade in the federal government. While others in his party have gotten mileage out of trash-talking “the swamp,” Jordan points out that many of his neighbors make the daily trek to D.C.

“When I’m at the doors talking to people, I tell them that I worked on Capitol Hill,” he said, describing a typical day on the campaign trail. “They’ll be like, ‘Oh, I used to work for this firm that was involved with this committee on Capitol Hill,’ or ‘I worked for this federal agency.’”

Almost a quarter of workers in Prince William and around 20 percent in Fauquier were employed by the government, whether federal or otherwise, between 2013 and 2017, according to Census Bureau estimates.

As for Jordan himself, he started out as press secretary for Alabama Rep. Robert B. Aderholt in 2008. Three years later, he joined the House Small Business Committee staff as communications director before crossing the Rotunda to work for Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford in 2015. He left last summer to work at a PR firm.

Asked what he misses most about the Hill, Jordan broke out in a laugh. “Working in the Senate office, I mean, good grief, we had a huge staff,” he said. “You have all of these legislative experts that can help you find what you need.”

His campaign team now includes a consultant, a campaign manager and a few volunteers. That means he’s been writing a fair number of his own briefs and press releases — a task that comes naturally after his years on the Hill.

Jordan got off to a strong fundraising start in his bid to take back a seat that Democrats flipped in 2017. (Hill watchers might remember his opponent, incumbent Elizabeth Guzmán, from last year’s State of the Union, when she delivered the Spanish-language response.)

If he wins, Jordan plans to follow the example of his former bosses. Like Aderholt, he wants to keep things low-key. “He’s completely fine with putting his head down, going to the committee meetings and studying policy with the staff,” Jordan said.

Like Lankford, he wants to tackle topics others shy away from. “He’s willing to listen first and then talk and be an advocate,” Jordan said, citing the senator’s recent push to recognize the legacy of the 1921 massacre in Tulsa, when white mobs attacked black residents, killing hundreds.

Stakes were always high in the Senate, but Jordan doesn’t see his latest career move as a step down to the minor leagues. “This November is all about whether or not Virginia becomes a one-party, Democrat-controlled state,” he said. While Republicans control the Legislature by a narrow margin, the governor’s mansion and other statewide offices are now held by Democrats.

And what about the traffic? His own commute is shorter now — his PR job is based in Alexandria — but that doesn’t help everyone else.

“We gotta stop building all these houses all over the place without having infrastructure in place first,” Jordan said.

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