Mondaire Jones, a lawyer who ran on a progressive platform, appears to have won the Democratic primary for the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, putting him on track to become the first openly gay Black member of Congress.
Jones, who was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign in his bid for the party’s nomination for New York’s 17th Congressional District, defeated seven other candidates, leading his closest challenger by a 2-1 margin.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several thousand mail-in votes yet to be counted in the district. But as of Wednesday morning, Jones led the field with 45% of the vote, ahead of former federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer, who won 21% of the vote.
State Sen. David Carlucci, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democratic state senators who for several years swung power in Albany’s upper chamber to the Republicans in an effort to block progressive legislation, came in third with 13% of the vote.
The winner of the Democratic primary is favored in the district, which covers parts of the suburbs of Westchester and Rockland counties, just north of the city, and leans seven points more Democratic than the nation as a whole.
Jones will likely be joined by Ritchie Torres, an openly gay Afro-Latino who is the apparent winner in the nearby 15th Congressional District, as the first openly gay Black members of Congress.
Dave Wasserman, the U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report, called the race for Jones, even before the remaining mail-in ballots are counted.
“I’ve seen enough: Mondaire Jones (D) has won the Dem primary for #NY17. Jones, an AOC-backed progressive, is now virtually guaranteed to be the next member from Chappaqua,” Wasserman tweeted, referring to the New York residence of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
I've seen enough: Mondaire Jones (D) has won the Dem primary for #NY17. Jones, an AOC-backed progressive, is now virtually guaranteed to be the next member from Chappaqua.
Along with Ritchie Torres (D) in #NY15, Jones is poised to be the first out Black LGBT member of Congress.
Two other openly LGBTQ candidates from the Empire State also won their primaries on Tuesday, with U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney winning renomination in the 18th Congressional District, and Tracy Mitrano winning the Democratic nomination in the 23rd Congressional District, which covers much of upstate New York’s southern tier, stretching from the Buffalo exurbs in the west to the city of Ithaca in the east. If all four are successful in November, New Yorkers could potentially constitute one-third of all out LGBTQ members of Congress.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed Jones, praised his success in a statement.
“LGBTQ people and African Americans are severely underrepresented in the U.S. Congress, but Mondaire’s victory gives hope that we are moving toward a federal government that is more representative of the people it serves,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said.
“Mondaire’s unique experiences and perspectives as well as his work in criminal justice reform makes him an essential voice for this moment. When he wins in November, he will make history as one of the first openly LGBTQ Black members of Congress. But more importantly, he can be an influential member in the coming debates to address racism and police brutality, and in passing the Equality Act.”
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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com
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