Brooklyn Boro

Redistricted and facing competition, Mondaire Jones is fighting to continue his congressional career

Jones, elected to Congress in 2020 for NY-17, is running again in NY-10 in one of the most competitive primaries New York has seen yet

August 22, 2022 Ella Napack
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Mondaire Jones, current congressman for Rockland County and parts of Westchester County in New York’s 17th Congressional District, is running in the recently redrawn 10th Congressional district of New York.

In 2020, when I volunteered to work for his Congressional campaign, it looked a little different. Curious about the impact of re-districting on an incumbent, I had the opportunity to interview Jones right before tomorrow’s primary to learn what has changed between then and now.

The latest NY redistricting caused much controversy as many courts rejected maps passed by legislature, and the process was rushed by the upcoming primary. Competition increased after the NY-10 incumbent Rep. Jerrold Nadler decided to run in the 12th district instead, in a race against Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

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Congressman Mondaire Jones attends a joint news conference with Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou. Photo: Mary Altaffer

Jones had been on track for re-election in NY-10 as a rising congressman gaining traction for his progressive agenda, and he was named the most legislatively active freshman in 2021. But after Democratic Congressional Campaign Chair Sean Patrick Maloney decided to run in Jones’ district, he had to think about other options.

Jones is running in a field of other strong progressives, as well as a wealthy moderate who secured a controversial endorsement from the New York Times. The race remains tight going into the primary on August 23 as Jones fights to continue his young congressional career. Our conversation is below.

What do you want Brooklyn to know about you?

I want Brooklyn to know that I am the progressive champion who is best positioned to defeat a conservative Democrat in this race, a man who unfortunately opposes Medicare for All and supports abortion restrictions. I am a leading progressive in Congress who has delivered results. That includes billions of dollars for schools, housing, health care and infrastructure. I have also been leading the fight to defend our democracy, and protect fundamental rights, like voting, abortion and marriage equality. This democratic primary is ground zero for the progressive fight within the Democratic party in this country. And if nothing changes between now and next Tuesday, a conservative Democrat will buy his way into Congress, in a in a district that is one of the most progressive districts in America.

Out of all the progressive candidates withs similar stances, what makes you stand out?

Well, one of the things that makes me stand out is that I’m already a leading progressive member of Congress, with expertise at legislating and delivering for the people I’m running to represent. I’m not even just a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I’m a leader in the Progressive Caucus, and have been a leader in fights that are embraced by the progressive movement, whether it is Supreme Court expansion, or voting rights, and democracy reforms. Also, I am the youngest member of House leadership, which makes me the rare progressive voice at that table, and I was named the most legislatively active freshman member of Congress.

As you know, New Yorkers are very politically active, and they really pay attention. What have you learned in the past 2 years in congress that you’ll bring to bear on behalf of Brooklyn?

I’ve learned that even as a junior member of Congress, you can make a tremendous difference if you’ve got the skills like I’ve got, and a commitment to standing up even to members of your own party, in order to make progress on key issues. We need that now more than ever, as fundamental rights are under assault. Our democracy hangs in the balance.

Jones speaks at a news conference on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Photo: Mary Altaffer

Lets talk about the last debate. What do you want to say to undecided voters on why they should trust you and vote for you?

When you vote for Mondaire Jones, you can be assured that I haven’t profited off gun manufacturers and Fox News, or that I’m wishy washy on the subject of abortion. When you vote for me, you’ll be voting for the guy who had the political courage and vision long before anyone else introduced legislation to expand the Supreme Court, because I believe that fundamental rights will be under assault this year. A vote for me is a vote for someone who shares your values while being an exceptionally skilled member of Congress.

As a very progressive member of congress, how do you plan to continue making progress for New York in an increasingly polarized government?

I have found ways to get the Executive branch to do things, even when we have reached legislative impasse. I did that last August. When the rest of Congress had gone home on recess, I rallied with AOC at the Capitol steps for days, and we got the president to reverse his position and instruct the CDC to extend the nation’s eviction moratorium. I’ve also been one of the folks who’ve gotten the president to a place where he is now going to cancel some amounts of student debt. We need people who are going to be resourceful and creative in the midst of gridlock. I’ve also shown an ability to get Republican support whether it is in the antitrust space, or for my bill with Jerry Nadler called the Respect for Marriage, which got 47 House Republicans when we passed it in the house earlier this summer.

What are you going to do to help bring money for infrastructure, such as transportation services, in New York?

Well, I played a key role in getting those billions of dollars for New York City in the first place. And now I’m running for reelection, to bring as many of those dollars to lower Manhattan and Brooklyn as possible, particularly to invest in climate resiliency and environmental justice for communities like Sunset Park, Red Hook and the Lower East Side. Also, I want to reimagine the BQE and clean up the Gowanus Canal.

So, what do you bring to the table that others that have lived in or already represented this area do not?

An understanding of how Congress works, a track record of having already delivered for our communities in Congress and an understanding of federal policy, along with the grassroots fundraising operation to defeat wealthy opponents disconnected to the real body politic.

  Broolynites care about the deeply Brooklyn specific issues. How do you plan to represent a district you just moved to, and only because of a messy redistributing?

You know, I am so thrilled to have learned so much about local issues already, through my conversations and listening sessions with stakeholders throughout the district, whether on the subject of the Gowanus canal, or the concerns over public safety shared by the AAPI communities in this district. As well as the discussions I’ve had about the BQE. Most of the people running in this primary has not represented or lived in this district, and I will say, and I think that people can see from those two televised debates that we’ve had, that I know Brooklyn as well as anyone else on that debate stage.

Last but not least—I have got to ask—what do you love about Brooklyn?

My favorite thing about Brooklyn is the intimacy of the neighborhood. I love the residential vibe in a bustling social community, whether restaurants, bars, nightclubs or the theater.

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