There has never been a gay Black man in Congress, but Mondaire Jones is trying to change that. The lawyer, nonprofit leader, and activist announced his campaign back in July to represent New York’s 17th Congressional District. On Thursday, he posted a video on Twitter about his run.
“I've been fighting my entire life,” he said in a two-minute video. “First it was against the odds of my upbringing to make it to Stanford University, to work in the Obama administration, and then go to Harvard Law School. I’ve been fighting in the courtroom on behalf of Westchester County residents, and now I’m running to fight for the people of New York 17th Congressional District — to represent the same people whose homes I watched my grandmother clean. That is the quintessential American Dream.”
Jones is a native of Rockland County, which is in the 17th District. He was born to a single mother and raised by his grandparents who grew up in the Jim Crow-era South, both aspects that inform his political positions, he says. He will compete in the race opposite activist Allison Fine (who is the only woman who has announced her candidacy), New York State Senator David Carlucci, and Assemblyman David Buchwald for the seat from which Democrat Nita Lowey is resigning. Others are likely to throw their hats in the ring as well.
Lowey, 82, has served as the state’s representative for three decades. A trailblazer and pioneer, she became the first woman to head the powerful House Appropriations Committee earlier this year.
Mondaire also boasts his own notable accomplishments. He co-founded the New York-based nonprofit Rising Leaders, Inc., which teaches leadership skills to underserved middle-school students in three cities, and said in his announcement video that it is time more people like him are in Congress.
“I don’t come from money,” he said. “I’m Black, I’m gay, and so I dont see people like me in office very often. Everyday we wake up and it feels like the world is on fire… And the response of Democrats in 2019 cannot be to compromise our values for the sake of compromise. We have got to be fighting tooth-and-nail for the things we say we believe in, like a Green New Deal, Medicare For All, and criminal justice reform.”
Nodding to the fact that a majority of elected federal representatives have net worths of over $1 million, Mondaire added that Americans “don’t need more millionaires in Congress.”
“We need more people of color, more young people, more queer people,” he said. “We need more people in office who understand that experience, who can speak to people who have been shut out of the political process. The stakes are too high for us to just sit out on the sidelines.”
New York’s Democratic primaries will be held June 23, 2020. No Republicans have yet announced their candidacy.