- ‘Growing up poor, black and gay, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone win.’
The US House of Representatives looks likely to get its first openly gay black member this November – Mondaire Jones.
Jones has now won the Democratic primary for New York’s 17th District. But, while he will face a Republican opponent in the November general election, the area is a Democratic stronghold.
Jones, who is a 33-year-old attorney, said in a statement:
‘Growing up poor, black and gay, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone win.
‘Indeed, in the 244-year history of the United States, there has never been an openly gay, black member of Congress. That changes this year, thanks to the great people of New York’s 17th Congressional District.’
The next generation of LGBT+ representation
Jones was born in the area and his single mom raised him until she became ill. He then moved in with his grandparents who worked multiple jobs to support him.
He graduated from both Stanford University and Harvard Law School before starting his career as a progressive attorney. That has included a stint in the US Department of Justice during Barack Obama’s presidency.
Moreover, he won Bernie Sanders endorsement – among others – for the district. In an eight-way race, he stormed home with 44.6% of the vote before absentee ballots, creating an unassailable lead.
He will now face New York City firefighter, Maureen McArdle Shulman, in the 3 November elections. However the area has been solidly Democratic since 1983.
Talking about his sexuality, Jones said growing up LGBT+ was hard. Nevertheless he added:
‘I’m proud to be part of a movement of young people, including young people of color and young queer people and young women.’
He came out when he was 24 years old. But now people come up to thank him for running as an openly gay candidate.
Jones says ‘so much has changed over the past decade, and even over the past five years’.
Moreover, he adds: ‘Growing up – struggling with my self-acceptance – if I had been able to look to an example like what I would provide, someone who is a respectable individual, an openly gay black man in Congress, life would have been a lot better for me.’
The 17th district is in southern New York and incorporates Rockland County and parts of central and northwestern Westchester County, including the city of White Plains and the Tappan Zee Bridge. The diverse community is around 58% white, 22% Hispanic, 10% black and 6% Asian.