Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., who made history in 2020 as one of the first gay Black men elected to serve in Congress, has seen his hopes for re-election fade as he trails two rivals in his crowded primary.
Jones has served the 17th Congressional District, but Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, another out congressman, who serves New York’s 18th District, announced in July that he would run in the 17th District because of redistricting. Rather than challenge Maloney or Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the 16th District, Jones moved to Brooklyn and chose to run in the 10th District.
The race was too close to call Thursday morning. With 98% of votes in, Dan Goldman, who was House Democrats’ counsel during the 2019 impeachment inquiry into then-President Donald Trump, was ahead, with 25.7% of the vote, and State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou was close behind, with 23.7%. Jones was in third place, with 18.2% of the vote.
Jones has not yet issued a statement and did not reply to requests for comment.
In 2020, Jones and Democrat Ritchie Torres, who won the race in New York’s 15th Congressional District, were elected as the first openly LGBTQ Black members of Congress.
“To grow up Black and gay is to not see yourself anywhere,” Jones told The Washington Post last year. “That’s why representation matters — if I had seen an openly gay Black person in the halls of Congress when I was growing up, it would have been living proof that things really do get better.”
During his time in Congress, Jones was a co-chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. He also served on the House Judiciary, Ethics, and Education and Labor committees.
On Tuesday, Jones celebrated President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would cancel $10,000 in federal student loans for anyone making less than $125,000. Jones said on Twitter that he helped lead the effort to pressure the president to follow through on the campaign promise and that he is grateful that Biden is “heeding our call to provide relief to millions of Americans who deserve fairness in an economy that leaves too many young people behind.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement Wednesday that Jones “is a respected progressive voice on Capitol Hill and a relentless fighter for working families.”
“House Democrats are grateful to Congressman Jones for his leadership, which is leaving a principled legacy during his short period of time in Congress,” she said. She added that Jones is a “leader among his colleagues” and that he was unanimously elected as a freshman representative to leadership.
Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a political action committee dedicated to increasing the number of openly LGBTQ public officials, said the result of Jones’ primary “is deeply sad for the LGBTQ community.”
“We’ve lost a fierce advocate and LGBTQ pioneer in Congress who used every ounce of his political power to fight for a more equitable and fair America,” Parker said in a statement. “We look forward to supporting Mondaire’s continued work in Congress this year as well as his future advocacy. It’s abundantly clear to all who know him that his call to public service is a lifelong endeavor. We look forward to our continued partnership and friendship.”
There are nine out LGBTQ members of the House, including Jones, and two in the Senate — all of them Democrats — according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
The number of LGBTQ elected officials grew by nearly 6% last year, according to a recent report from the LGBTQ Victory Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides training to LGBTQ people who want to run for office.
Despite that growth, LGBTQ elected officials at all levels of government make up just 0.2% of elected officials. To achieve equitable representation, voters would have to elect 35,854 more LGBTQ people, according to the Victory Institute.
At least 101 LGBTQ people ran or are running for Congress this year — more than in any other election cycle in history — the institute’s report found.
Some of the candidates would make history if they are elected. State Sen. Becca Balint, for example, won the Democratic primary this month for Vermont’s only seat in the House. She is favored to win the general election, and if she is elected, she would be the first out LGBTQ person and the first woman elected to Congress from Vermont.
Leigh Finke of Minnesota won her Democratic primary for the state House this month. If she is elected, she would be the first out transgender person in the Minnesota Legislature.