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Mondaire Jones joins Ritchie Torres as first gay Black men elected to Congress

Jones, a Democrat, was elected to represent New York's 17th Congressional District in the House.
Image: Mondaire Jones, a congressional candidate for NY-17.
Mondaire Jones was elected to the House in New York's 17th Congressional District.Mondaire For Congress

Democrat Mondaire Jones has won his House race in New York's 17th Congressional District, defeating Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman by 54 percent to 40 percent with 72 percent of votes in.

Jones, 33, succeeds outgoing House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, who didn't seek re-election.

On election night, before he declared victory, Jones said his first priority in Congress would be providing Covid-19 relief for millions of Americans.

"Growing up poor, Black and gay, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone win."

Mondaire Jones

"We have got to get the HERO Act passed, which will bring $1.3 billion in relief for my district," he said. "We've got to extend supplemental unemployment insurance and deliver much-needed relief everywhere. I am excited about rebuilding democracy, which is under siege not just by Republicans, but by the Supreme Court."

Jones and fellow Democrat Ritchie Torres, who won his race to represent New York's 15th Congressional District, will be the first openly LGBTQ Black members of Congress.

"I'm excited about serving with Ritchie," Jones said. "He's a tremendous candidate and a good friend. This is a chance for us to be the role model we looked for growing up — for queer youth and especially queer youth of color."

Jones has admitted that coming out at age 24 wasn't easy, as much because he hadn't fully come to terms with himself as over concern that others wouldn't accept him.

"Growing up poor, Black and gay, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone win," he said after handily winning a crowded eight-way primary in July. (He won nearly three times the votes of the second-place candidate, lawyer Adam Schleifer.)

Jones was raised in Spring Valley, New York, the son of a single mother who worked several jobs to make ends meet. Even as a child, Jones wrote on Medium, he "dreamed big." After receiving degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the Justice Department in the Obama administration.

Jones secured an endorsement from Obama, along with praise from high-profile members of Congress, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

His platform has relied heavily on the progressive tentpoles favored by Ocasio-Cortez, including "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal.

"I'm part of a generation that stands to inherit a planet that's devastated by climate catastrophe," Jones said. "For me, there's no alternative to a Green New Deal. We have to be fighting for a thing that will make our planet inhabitable for ourselves and our children and their children."

Jones, who raised $3 million in contributions, was heavily favored to beat Schulman, a retired firefighter.

New York's 17th Congressional District — which covers all of Rockland County and parts of Westchester — historically has been a wealthy Republican enclave, but it has swung sharply to the left since Lowey took office in 1988.

Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, called Jones' win a "milestone" in American politics.

"His victory will inspire more people of color and LGBTQ people to run for office in their communities," she said in a statement. "He will be a powerful voice for change and his impact will extend well beyond a single vote in the U.S. House."

The Victory Fund works to elect openly LGBTQ candidates to all levels of government. According to the organization, 26 openly LGBTQ candidates for the House and the Senate were on ballots Tuesday, more than at any other time in U.S. history.

There are currently seven out members of the House, all of whom are expected to win re-election.

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