Out gay congressional candidate Mondaire Jones cruised to victory in the NY-17 Democratic primary race over the summer, putting him on the precipice of history — and now he’s looking to finish off the competition for good in the final round.
The 33-year-old Democratic nominee for Congress in Northern Westchester and Rockland County is again facing several opponents in the general election, though many are running on third-party lines, lean to the right, or lack Jones’ name recognition in a district already been established as safely Democratic under outgoing Congressmember Nita Lowey, who demolished her 2018 Reform Party challenger, Joseph Ciardullo, 88 percent to 12 percent — with no Republican candidate on the ballot.
Jones, who, along with out gay Bronx lawmaker Ritchie Torres would be the first LGBTQ individuals of color in the state’s congressional delegation should they emerge victorious, walloped the competition in the Democratic primary when he received more than twice as many votes as the second-place finisher in a race that had eight contenders.
Westchester-Rockland Democrat on the verge of making history as an out gay Black member of Congress
Jones stands apart from his competition with a healthy mixture of local and federal experience under his belt. He worked in the Obama administration’s Justice Department and the Westchester County Law Department, while also boasting non-profit experience.
One of Jones’ opponents in the general election, former FDNY firefighter Maureen McArdle Schulman, won the Republican primary by a wide margin — 76 percent to chemical engineer Yehudis Gottesfeld’s 21 percent — but the key takeaway in the Democratic and Republican primaries in this district was turnout. More than 78,000 voters showed up for the Democratic primary, while the Republican primary competition yielded just over 11,000 votes.
In fact, Jones racked up nearly four times as many votes as Schulman did during their respective primary competitions, even as he faced a crowded field.
But Schulman isn’t Jones’ only foe in the general election — far from it. Gottesfeld, who yielded a measly 2,338 votes in the GOP primary, is back again, running on the Conservative Party line, while local businessperson Joshua Eisen appears to be somewhat of a wild card candidate: He has injected north of $1 million of his own money into his war chest and has just shy of $430,000 on hand, which is half that of Jones, who has nearly $919,000 on hand with one week to go until election day.
City and State reported in February that Eisen, who is listed as running on the ECL Party line, landed in hot water in recent years for allegedly engaging in harassment, using racial slurs in emails about a opposing attorney’s daughter, and telling the wife of an another opponent that she would “bathe in the warm semen of Mengele,” referring to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Eisen also faced charges for stalking and threatening the family of one of his business partners, charges his campaign said were dismissed.
Years later, Eisen, who did not participate in any June primaries, is seemingly feeling the backlash from voters. According to the New York Post, some of his campaign yard signs have been scrawled with “Nazi Lover,” which prompted Eisen to point fingers at Jones’ supporters by blaming them for the alleged vandalization.
Even with all that cash, it’s not clear whether Eisen will make a dent in the vote total on election day. Schulman, on the other hand, has at least proven an ability to get Republican votes — but she is broke. She has raised just $46,555 and spent $50,075, leaving her with a cash deficit of roughly $3,500.
Ideologically, neither Eisen nor Schulman is aligned with the bulk of voters in a district that has remained reliably blue since it was redistricted in 2013 — and well before that. On his campaign site, Eisen rambles about the separation of church and state and decries what he said is “a movement of professors at colleges and universities” who he said are “ideological fascists” who “teach our kids that texts sacred to communities be treated as literature and little more.”
Schulman boasts typical right-wing talking points on her campaign site, where she defends “the sanctity of life,” calls on the government to limit spending, warns against government overreach against the Second Amendment, and touts “school choice and school vouchers as an alternative to the public-school education system.”
Jones’ candidacy as a progressive candidate, meanwhile, has energized young voters even outside of his own district, and the election day outlook is looking positive for him in the final days of the campaign. He has racked up an impressive collection of high-profile endorsements, including from former President Barack Obama, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the Bronx and Queens, as well as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, among others.
Jones also has support from LGBTQ groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ Victory Fund, though the Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats shunned him during the primary competition in favor of Assemblymember David Buchwald of the 93rd District, who will soon be out of a job after forsaking reelection to his current seat in his failed congressional campaign. (In the race to take Buchwald’s seat, out trans attorney Kristen Browde lost by just 350 votes in the Democratic primary race against first-place candidate Chris Burdick.)
In the home stretch of the campaign, Jones is remaining active on social media and does not appear to be taking anything for granted. Between tweets about policy — including his vociferous support of expanding the US Supreme Court and warnings that Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the court “threatens to return us to the days of Jim Crow” — Jones is sharing photos of his get-out-the-vote efforts and announced that former presidential candidate Andrew Yang will phone bank for him on October 27.
In a tweet on October 26, Jones acknowledged the long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots in his district — and he considered that to be a positive sign about his chances of becoming the district’s next member of Congress and the first out gay Black member of Congress, joining the Bronx’s Afro-Latinx Torres.
“Many of you, from all across the country, are telling your parents to vote for me,” Jones said. “I hear this from so many people as I meet them in early voting lines.”
“Thank you,” he added. “It’s working.”
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