Elizabeth Warren Endorses Mondaire Jones, The Candidate Who Could Become The First Black Gay Congress Member In The U.S.
|thenorthstar||Feb 5, 2020|
Mondaire Jones, an attorney and activist running for New York’s 17th Congressional District, knows what voters want out of their next congress member: authenticity.
Jones, 32, sat down with The North Star last week in a coffee shop in Union Square in New York City. The tiny, yet busy, coffee house was filled with people grabbing their morning cup of joe. Wearing a dark blue Polo Ralph Lauren sweater, a camera snaps away just off to Jones’ side as one of his two aides reaches into the frame to remove a piece of lint. Everything needs to be just right.
Despite the distractions, Jones remains focused on discussing his platform and how it all started.
A native from Spring Valley in Rockland County, he is running to represent the place he called home, as well as parts of Central and Northern Westchester. Growing up in Rockland County with his single mother, the candidate told The North Star that when daycare became too expensive, his grandparents would take him to their day jobs. Jones’ grandmother, who cleaned homes for a living, even worked past the age of retirement to pay for medical procedures and prescription drugs.
“If you want to get by in this country, then you have to put in a lot of work. Often times, working harder than people who have more money and more wealth,” says Jones.
On Tuesday, Jones was endorsed by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. On Twitter, Warren wrote that Jones “knows that we’re in a fight to put power in the hands of working families. With him in Congress, we’ll gain another chance to build the big, structural change our country needs. I’m proud to endorse him!”
If Jones wins, he would be the first Black, openly gay Congress member elected in U.S. history. And, not surprisingly, that hasn’t been an easy road to take. Jones told TNS that before he announced he was running, one elected official withdrew his endorsement once he’d learned Jones was running as an openly gay candidate.
“I take homophobia and racism in stride in a way that my ancestors that have taken it in stride and work even harder. It’s energizing,” he says honestly. “When I make the observation that some people, including local blogs that are doubting me, that energizes me to prove my skeptics wrong.”
Voters want authenticity, he says, and that’s exactly what they’re going to get from him.
“I had to bare my entire soul in the course of this campaign in a way no other candidate has done or come close to doing,” he says. “And I think it’s why there is so much energy around my campaign and not around that of other candidates.”
The Democratic candidate didn’t always know he wanted to run for Congress. Jones realized he wanted to try his hand in politics during his freshman year at Spring Valley High School. After seeing how difficult it was to pass the school budget, Jones decided to get involved by reactivating the school’s NAACP youth council, organizing other young people and students, and put on events in order to get the school budget passed.
When he was just 19 years old, Jones was elected committee chair on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors.
“I attended state, regional and national [NAACP] conventions, which really deepened my understanding of inequality in this country and the need for changing the structures that have created or maintained various different classes economically between races in this country,” says Jones.
After graduating from Stanford University in 2009, Jones worked for the Obama administration in the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, focusing on judicial nominations for the White House. Jones followed that up with a law degree from Harvard.
Jones announced he was running for Congress in July against eight other candidates, just a few months before incumbent Nita Lowey announced her retirement last October. Lowey has been in Congress since 1989.
It was time for new representation in this district, he says.
“This didn’t come from a place of disrespect toward a member of Congress,” he explains. “It came from a place of being part of this movement of people, including young people, who think that the urgent challenges we have require a new way of doing business in Washington.
“It means bucking the political establishment at times, standing up to house leadership at times, standing up to corporations and not taking money from them.”
When he decided to run for Congress, Jones wanted to push forward a progressive campaign that focused on social justice, climate action and financial freedom.
Big Business is also too involved in Washington, he says.
“Corporations have way too much influence in politics,” he says. “We see that and one thing that has radicalized a lot of people, including myself, frankly, is seeing how despite Donald Trump’s embrace of white supremacy, corporations have continued to flood the Republican Party and his candidacy with money and millions of dollars.
“It’s a perfect example of putting profits over the interest of everyday people. We’ve got to get that out of the system.”
To other young aspiring people of color who have thought about running for office and don’t often see themselves represented in Congress, Jones said hard work and ignoring the naysayers is one way to succeed in politics.
“You can absolutely do it because I’ve been in the same situation they’ve been. Through hard work, believing in yourself and not listening to the haters, you can make a whole lot of progress in politics and any other profession you desire to be in,” said Jones. “The people I know who are most successful were doubted from the beginning or who came from unlikely circumstances.”
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.