* Former committee chairman of the NAACP’s National Board of Directors
* Worked in the U.S. Department of Justice under President Obama
* Was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020
* Member of the Congressional Black Caucus & the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Mondaire L. Jones was born in Nyack, New York, on May 18, 1987, and was raised by an unwed mother in Spring Valley, New York. In 2006 he chaired a committee on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors.
In 2009, Jones earned a BA degree in political science from Stanford University, where he was a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship. Four years later, he received a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.
Jones came out publicly as a homosexual in 2011, when he was 24.
Jones served a stint as a staffer in the U.S. Department of Justice during the presidency of Barack Obama.
From September 2013 to October 2014, and again from October 2015 until June 2018, Jones worked for the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell. From October 2014 to October 2015, he served as a law clerk for Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. And from June 2018 to July 2019, he was employed by the Law Department of Westchester County, New York.
In the summer of 2019, Jones, inspired by the successful 2018 congressional campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, announced his plan to run in a Democratic Party primary to determine who would thenceforth represent New York’s 17th Congressional District, where fellow Democrat Nita Lowey was firmly entrenched as a 16-term incumbent. But in October 2019 – three months after Jones had entered the race — Lowey announced that she was retiring from government and thus would not seek reelection.
Key elements of Jones’ 2020 campaign platform included the following:
Restoring Our Democracy
- “I am a Black person who is outraged by the right-wing assault on the voting rights of people of color in America. I am a gay person who is horrified by what has become an annual ritual: spending the month of June, every year, waiting to see if the Supreme Court will vote to take away my civil rights.”
- “I was proud to lead in the fight to pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, in the House, which if passed by the Senate would guarantee automatic voter registration, enact critical campaign financing reform, and end reckless, partisan gerrymandering through mandating independent redistricting commissions.”
Guaranteeing Health Care As a Right, Not a Privilege
- “Even before the [COVID-19] pandemic, 87 million Americans were either uninsured or underinsured, preventing them from getting necessary medical care. In the richest nation in the history of the world, health care should be a right, not a privilege. That’s why I support Medicare for All, which would insure every American with comprehensive health care.”
Championing the Rights of Working People
- “I’m proud to have voted for the Raise the Wage Act this Congress, and I support raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, permanently indexed to inflation, for all workers.”
- “I support the power of workers to organize and bargain collectively, and I proudly helped pass the PRO Act in the House, which ensures working people can organize without fear of retaliation. The PRO Act would end misleading ‘Right to Work’ laws and close tax loopholes that encourage jobs and investments to be outsourced.”
Providing a Quality Education to All
- “We must forgive student debt to liberate an entire generation to fully participate in our economy, such as through homeownership, the single biggest generator of wealth in the United States. And, in order to prevent crushing student debt from accumulating in the future, student debt forgiveness should be paired with tuition-free public college moving forward.”
Fighting for Our Families
- “I support universal child care, and I was proud to introduce the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act with Senator Elizabeth Warren, which would ensure universal access to child care and pre-K.”
Saving Our Planet
- “Our planet is in peril. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, we have 10 years remaining to prevent irreversible damage to Earth due to global warming. … That’s why I am a proud cosponsor of the Green New Deal, which would create 20 million good-paying jobs while transitioning America to 100% renewable energy. […] We have a responsibility to end corporate tax cuts to fossil fuel companies and invest in new, sustainable infrastructure across the country. We also need to limit our reliance on automobiles and transition to high-speed and light rail powered by clean, renewable energy sources.”
Protecting a Woman’s Right to Choose
- “I support codifying Roe v. Wade by statute, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and ensuring that any Medicare-for-All legislation includes coverage for the full range of reproductive services.”
Tackling Systemic Racism
- “Institutional discrimination touches all facets of life in America, from health care to employment to criminal justice to housing. We must fight to achieve equality and dismantle systemic racism so that we are all able to participate fully in this society.”
- “With law enforcement officers engaging in miscarriages of justice on both systemic and individual levels, I believe Congress has a responsibility to enact comprehensive federal oversight measures, in conjunction with state and local action. We must honor the memories of people unlawfully killed by the police by listening to the demands of their family members for justice, ensuring that law enforcement officers are held accountable, and moving towards a society where the institution of policing plays less of a role in Black and Brown communities. […] I support banning the consideration of criminal convictions in hiring decisions when the nature of the conviction is irrelevant to the job’s duties. […] It also means supporting the legalization and regulation of cannabis, as New York and other states have done.”
Fixing Our Broken Immigration System
- “I support creating a fair pathway to citizenship for our undocumented brothers and sisters, revamping our visa system, and codifying DACA in order to protect our young people. I was proud to help pass the American Dream and Promise Act in the House, which would protect our Dreamers by putting them on a pathway to permanent residency.”
Advocating for Our LGBTQIA Community
- “Unfortunately, with rates of transphobic and homophobic hate crimes rising, many in our LGBTQIA community live under the threat of danger. LGBTQIA youth are twice as likely to be homeless than their straight and cisgender counterparts. In Congress, I was proud to help pass the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I support comprehensive changes to our housing, health care, and education systems so LBGTQIA youth have a guaranteed roof over their heads, reliable medical care, and a quality education.”
Advancing a Diplomacy-First Foreign Policy
- “Our budgets reflect our values and priorities. Currently, the United States has chosen to prioritize investing in war and weapons ahead of providing for the basic needs of our people. […] As a member of Congress, I believe we must reduce military spending and reinvest this money in the State Department, to strengthen diplomacy and peacebuilding, as well as domestically, in programs that meet the needs of our civilian population.”
Jones argued strongly in favor of having the America rejoin the Iran nuclear deal of 2015, from which the Trump Administration had withdrawn the U.S. in 2018. In January 2020, for instance, Jones said: “Through the United States’ withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, President Trump has made our world less safe. Iran has resumed its dangerous nuclear weapons program, which poses a great threat to the region, including to Israel. […] I strongly believe in the power of diplomacy and viewed the Iran Nuclear Deal as a great — although imperfect — accomplishment, as it aimed to remove much of Iran’s nuclear stockpile while keeping Iran in check through extensive monitoring. The deal was working until the United States withdrew, and nothing about the deal would have prevented the United States and our allies from negotiating an extended sunset provision or even permanent terms. In Congress, I will support all efforts to broker another nuclear agreement with Iran that limits its nuclear capabilities and provides extensive monitoring in exchange for lifting certain sanctions.”
In a crowded eight-way Democratic primary in June 2020, Jones won 41.9% of the vote, far ahead of the 16.3% garnered by runner-up Adam Schleifer. “I was never running to be one of 435 people in the House of Representatives,” Jones said in a local news interview. “I’m running to be a transformational figure in American politics.”
In June 2020 as well, Queerty, a self-identified “gay agenda” publication, named Jones as one of “50 Heroes” who were “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people.”
In the November 2020 general election for New York’s heavily Democratic 17th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jones, running on both the Democratic Party and Working Families Party tickets, defeated Republican nominee Maureen McArdle Schulman by the whopping margin of 59.3% to 35.2%.
With his victory, Jones joined fellow Democrat Ritchie Torres, who was also elected to a first term in Congress in 2020, as the first openly gay black members of the U.S. House.
Upon being sworn in to Congress in January 2021, Jones became one of the first two male members — the other was the also-newly-elected Jamaal Bowman — of the congressional cabal dubbed “The Squad,” a small group of far-left Democratic legislators originally consisting of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. (Former Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush of Missouri was likewise elected to Congress in 2020 and became the seventh member of The Squad.)
Jones also joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, the latter of which named him as its co-chair.
In April 2021, Jones exhorted his fellow legislators to help him pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to fight “systemic racism” in law-enforcement. “There are too many folks in this Congress who won their elections on backs of black and brown people who now need to make sure that they deliver for those communities that have borne the brunt of systemic racism and policing and in other contexts,” he said. In an effort to prevent the bill from stalling in the upper chamber of Congress, Jones called for the termination of the “Jim Crow relic known as the filibuster in the United States Senate.”
In April 2021 as well, Jones — along with Senator Edward Markey, Representative Hank Johnson, and House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler — introduced legislation calling for the expansion of the Supreme Court from 9 seats to 13. Jones said that “unfortunately, we can’t have” certain “nice things” – like paid leave, child care, and caregiving – “with the [existing] far-right super majority on the Supreme Court.” “Supreme Court expansion … is foundational to anything that Congress wants to do, and certainly that is popularly supported by the American people,” he added.
Regarding the Commission that President Joe Biden had assembled to study the potential benefits of packing the Court with nominees who could be relied upon to carry out Democratic Party agendas, Jones said: “We don’t need a commission to tell us that we need to restore balance to the Court in order to do any number of things.”
Asserting that the existing “far-right Supreme Court majority” was “hostile to democracy itself,” Jones warned that “if we want to save our democracy, we must act before it is too late by restoring balance of the Supreme Court.”
During the July 1, 2021 broadcast of MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin Reports, Jones again argued in favor of packing the Supreme Court. Emphasizing the need to have “a majority of people on the court who are pro-democracy,” he charged that the “conservative majority on the Court … has not seen a voter suppression law that it disagrees with.”
In an April 24, 2021 appearance on the CNN program Smerconish, Jones claimed that Republican opposition to statehood for Washington, D.C., was “racist.” “There are 700,000 people in the District of Columbia, more than in the state of Wyoming and Vermont,” he explained. “And so, the idea that we would disenfranchise those people, that we would tax them without representation, something we fought in the Revolutionary War, by the way, is unconscionable. And when you compare the states that we have enfranchised with the District of Columbia and the demographics there overwhelmingly people of color it is — it is quite a sinister thing.”
Explaining that the D.C. statehood legislation that Jones supported — The Washington, D.C. Admission Act — was unconstitutional, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a letter to President Biden and Congressional leaders: “Our Founding Fathers explicitly set aside a federal district to serve as the seat of government. It was never intended to operate as a state, and for good reason. If Washington D.C. unlawfully becomes a state, which is what many Democrats are proposing now, it will not join the others in equal standing. Rather, it will create a super-state that has privilege and primacy over all others.”
But Jones rejected the constitutional argument against D.C. statehood, insisting that: “This is an issue of racial justice in addition to being an issue of democracy. And we must stop disenfranchising people of color in this country. It’s time to stop doing that.”
Between July 19 and July 27, 2021, Jones took advantage of a congressional COVID rule that allowed House Representatives to assign a fellow lawmaker to cast votes for them by proxy. The rule had been enacted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to help Members of Congress minimize their potential physical exposure to coronavirus infection. During the nine-day period in July 2021, Jones utilized the vote-by-proxy option for 17 separate pieces of legislation. In order to authorize his votes to be cast by fellow congressman Nikema Williams, Jones wrote in a July 19 letter to the House clerk: “I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency, and I hereby grant the authority to cast my vote by proxy to the Honorable Nikema Williams (Georgia), who has agreed to serve as my proxy.” But in fact, Jones’ failure to vote in person had nothing whatsoever to do with the pandemic. During his absence, he partied on the French Riviera at the lavish wedding of HBO star Issa Rae.
In a July 4, 2022 appearance on MSNBC’s Deadline, Jones vowed that if the Democrats could win two more Senate seats in the upcoming midterm elections, they would be able to overcome the unwillingness of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to get rid of the filibuster rule. Ending the filibuster, he explained, would empower Senate Democrats to pass anti-gun legislation with just a simple majority. Said Jones:
“When you look at the polling, the American people support, broadly speaking, gun reforms like bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, raising the age to purchase semiautomatic rifles to 21, and of course enacting universal background checks. […] We have got to get rid of the filibuster to pass this legislation because my Republican colleagues, when it comes to fighting the end gun violence in this country, as proud as I was to just pass the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, I know that we’ve got to go much further than that. That means we’ve got to get rid of the filibuster by picking up just a handful more Democratic senate seats. We’ve got to talk openly about what the plan is because we’ve got to give people the confidence in us that if they do come out to vote in November, that they will see a material change. It’s shameful that Senators Sinema and Manchin aren’t willing to do this right now with respect to getting rid of the filibuster, but we’ve got to pick up two more Democratic Senate seats in the fall and keep our majority, and we can build a world in which the United States is free of gun violence.”
As matters of principle, Jones believes that:
Further Reading: “Mondaire Jones” (Linkedin.com, Keywiki.org)