This year, Mondaire Jones started to climb a hill most people thought was impossible. He began a primary campaign against one of Pelosi’s most powerful allies in Congress, Nita Lowey, who was first elected to Congress when Mondaire was 2 years old, and had since risen to the position of chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
Their district, NY-17, consists of northern and western Westchester County and all of Rockland County. It’s a D+7 district where Hillary was able to win easily against Trump (58.6% to 38.4%). But the district is mostly white and mostly rich (nearly a $100,000 media family income). Mondaire ran on working class issues, that have a lot of appeal to the upper middle class as well, the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-All, racial justice and police reform…
Soon after he declared his candidacy, Lowey announced she was retiring, setting off a flood of candidates who wanted the safe Democratic seat for themselves. And, after all, how hard would it be to defeat Jones, a black, gay progressive?
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas, state Assemblyman David Buchwald, right-wing state Senate “Democrat” David Carlucci and son-of-a-billionaire Adam Schleifer, each thought the seat should belong to them. Schleifer spent $5,197,000 of his inheritance on the race and Buchwald threw $612,342 of his own money in. Mondaire, who eschews corporate money, won and won big with 41.7% in an 8 person race– more votes than the second and third place finishers combined.
So next question… what is Mondaire likely to be like when he’s sitting in Congress? He’s a natural-born reformer– and he’s eager to get started. One of his targets is a field of landmines: the Supreme Court. I had asked him about the danger of Trump’s nominee abolishing women’s Choice. “Unfortunately, the Trump Administration and the Republican Party have systematically undermined women’s reproductive freedom,” he said. “The federal government must step in to protect civil rights– and it cannot leave those rights up to the extreme conservative majority on the Supreme Court. As a member of Congress, I will work to codify Roe v. Wade by statute, repeal the Hyde Amendment, and ensure that any Medicare for All legislation includes coverage for the full range of reproductive services.” (His GOP opponent is an anti-choice nut, completely out of step with the values of NY-17.)
But then he got into something related, but not specifically about Choice: He reminded me that McConnell “is poised to ram through a replacement of Justice Ginsburg before the November election, flagrantly breaking with the precedent he set just four years ago. That should confirm for the American people what many of us already knew: the Republican Party sees the Supreme Court as a partisan tool meant to serve its own political ends and further entrench the power of right-wing plutocrats. I refuse to stand by and let them. The constitution gives Congress the authority to add or subtract seats from the Supreme Court, and I fully intend to fight to expand our Court, if elected.” He wants to add 4 members.
That puts him at loggerheads with Biden who opposes expanding the Court. Last year Biden said that “We’ll live to rue that day.” Jones says Democrats are already living that reality. “Democrats are already ruing the day,” he said. “I think Democrats rue every day… I disagree with those words by Vice President Biden over a year ago. And my expectation is that he will change his opinion now.” YES! That’s the kind of leadership we need in Congress in 2021.
And what originally caused Jones to win the Blue America endorsement during the primary, wasn’t the Court. it was his stands on the other issues powering his campaign. “It’s frankly absurd that, in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of 200,000 Americans, the debate over our predatory healthcare system has been completely shunted aside,” he reiterated on Friday.
This fight is personal for me. After my grandfather died of cancer, I watched helplessly as my grandmother worked well past the age of retirement just to pay for the high cost of prescription drugs and medical procedures not fully covered by Medicare. When I quit my job to try to better my community by running for Congress, I lost my health insurance. That is not a rational system.
I believe health care should be a human right in a nation as wealthy as our own, not tied to employment status or economic means. It has never been clearer to me, and to millions of Americans across this country, that we need Medicare for All.
I have every confidence that Mondaire Jones will be working alongside AOC, Ed Markey and other climate hawks to fill in the details of the Green New Deal. If you can, please give to his campaign by tapping on the thermometer to the right.
He told us last week that “In the past month, America has watched in horror as the West Coast was engulfed in flames, and the Gulf Coast was inundated with hurricanes. It is beyond debate at this point that climate change is real, it is here already, and it is disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable communities. The question is, what are we going to do about it?
I know where I stand. We absolutely must mobilize our collective resources to confront the challenge of climate change with the urgency required. We must invest in sustainable infrastructure with a particular eye on our Black and brown communities that have experienced generations of environmental racism. Anything less is tantamount to climate denial.”
If you’re talking about the future of leadership in the Democratic Party and in Congress and in this country, you’re talking about Mondaire Jones. “This week, like so many weeks,” he said, “it is so difficult to be Black in America. To be reminded that property is worth more than Black life. People protesting the murder of Breonna Taylor are being punished more harshly than the people who actually killed Breonna Taylor. That’s absurd, and, people all across this country have had it. I may let myself feel the pain of injustice, but I do not despair. I remain deeply committed to the fight for a more just America. The fact is, our criminal legal system is working exactly as its designers intended. That’s why we need to reimagine that system.”
Let’s reimagine a system where it’s men and women like Mondaire Jones leading out party instead of representatives of special interests who have long ago lost touch with the spirit of fairness and reform that have, in the past, made the Democratic Party worthwhile.