Mondaire Jones launches bid for Congress

Former Congressmember Mondaire Jones of New York.
Former Congressmember Mondaire Jones of New York.

Out gay former congressmember Mondaire Jones on July 5 announced he is running to reclaim his old seat in New York’s 17th Congressional District, which includes Rockland County and Northern Westchester County. The ex-lawmaker has been working as a CNN commentator and serving on the US Commission on Civil Rights since he finished his term on Capitol Hill.

Jones was squeezed out of his original seat following a controversial redistricting process that prompted then-Congressmember Sean Patrick Maloney — the first out gay member of Congress from New York State — to ditch his old seat in the 18th District and mount an unsuccessful campaign in Jones’ 17th District. Republican Mike Lawler, then a member of the New York State Assembly, won the race for the 17th District. Jones.

Jones, in turn, shifted to run in the 10th Congressional District, which encompassed parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and lost to Dan Goldman in the Democratic primary race. In a previous interview with Gay City News, Jones commented that he wondered what might have happened had he sought re-election his original district. He is now doing just that, setting his sights on 2024.

Jones will have some competition in his own party. Among other candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the 17th District include Liz Whitmer Gereghty, the sister of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Whoever wins the primary will go on to face Lawler.

Jones made history in 2020 when he emerged victorious in the 17th District and became the first out gay Black member of Congress during an election cycle that also saw Ritchie Torres of the Bronx rise to become the first out gay Afro-Latinx member of Congress. Jones rose to office on a progressive platform advocating for policies like “Medicare for All,” and after he left office he touted his efforts to back legislation surrounding climate change, the economy, and healthcare. He was also a vocal advocate for voting rights.

This time, Jones is back on his home turf running for the 17th District — and he’s positioning himself more towards the middle on some fronts, like police funding. In his campaign video, he shows Dave Ryan of the Hudson Valley Police Department, who praises Jones, saying, “Mondaire Jones listened, and funded the police.”

Jones also commented on his background growing up in Rockland County with a single mother. 

“People here invested in me and helped me find my way,” Jones said in the video. “I made it from East Ramapo public schools, all the way to Harvard Law.”

Jones’ video makes a reference to his early days in Congress when he witnessed the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and it further denounces the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, echoing comments he made to Gay City News on that issue last year. Jones made a point to say that he was pushing his own party to “fight harder for working people” while insisting that he did not take money from big corporations or approve a policy which would have made many members of Congress significantly richer. He added that he was never Washington’s “first choice.”

“Most people in Washington didn’t grow up like me,” Jones said in his video. “They have no idea what it’s like to struggle. We got to get Washington back on the side of working people. I know we can do better. For me, this is personal.”