Each one of the roughly dozen Democrats in the ever-expanding 17th Congressional District primary field have sought to differentiate themselves to the party’s voters.
Mondaire Jones, an attorney from Rockland County and the first candidate to announce his intention to run for the seat last summer, has sought to stake out the progressive lane in the wide-open campaign.
Last Wednesday, Jones was endorsed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a development that will likely make some voters and his opponents sit up and take notice.
“I think it’s a huge boost for the campaign,” said Jones, 32, currently a South Nyack resident. “I think it also reinforces what I and others on the ground, especially in Rockland County, have known from the beginning, which is I’m the only candidate in this race who has a clear path to victory because I can get support in both Rockland and Westchester counties.”
Jones early start to his campaign – July 8 – came three months before 16-term Rep. Nita Lowey announced her retirement, which gave him a head start. Since then, Jones has been hard at work to build a campaign infrastructure on both sides of the Hudson River, including having established his headquarters in Sleepy Hollow.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, he worked for the New York City-based law firm of Davis Polk, then joined the Westchester County Law Department as a litigator. He also worked in the Justice Department in 2009 and 2010 in the Office of Legal Policy as a non-lawyer, helping to vet candidates for federal judgeships after earning his undergraduate degree from Stanford and before going to law school.
In her endorsement statement, Warren mentioned that Jones would be best equipped to major changes that would help the average person.
“Mondaire Jones knows that we’re in a fight to put power in the hands of working families,” Warren said. “With Mondaire in Congress, we’ll gain another chance to achieve the hard-fought wins that bring us closer to big, structural change and I’m glad to stand with him.”
Some of the changes Jones is advocating for includes the Green New Deal, a wealth tax and a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage.
“We’ve really got to stand up and fight for the things we really care about as a party because these are the things that a vast majority of Americans understand, especially when they actually experience it,” Jones said.
Perhaps the biggest change he supports is a single-payer healthcare system, where the government through taxes ensures that everyone has essential healthcare. Jones said it would require a long battle, and he would back a public option to enhance the Affordable Care Act as an interim step.
Asked how he would pay for a single-payer system, Jones responded that he would fight to repeal the December 2017 federal tax legislation that has exploded the deficit and by instituting a wealth tax. He said 40 years ago the top marginal rate on income above $10 million a year was 70 percent; today it’s 35 percent. While Jones does not want to see the top rate doubled, at least a modest increase would help fund healthcare.
Repealing the tax legislation would also put an end to the $10,000 limit on state and local income taxes, something that must be done to provide Westchester and Rockland taxpayers some relief, he said.
Jones said having grown up poor in Section 8 housing in Spring Valley and raised by a young single mother, many people, including many Republicans that he’s met, have admired his resilience even if they don’t agree with him on various policy issues.
He would also be the first openly gay black member of Congress, if elected.
“Even if your candidate in the presidential (primaries) is Joe Biden, even if you tend to be moderate, you are drawn to my candidacy because even if you aren’t drawn to every single thing that I’m talking about from a policy standpoint, you recognize that no one else in the race comes close to having my story,” Jones said.
“You recognize that I’m someone who is sincere in my candidacy on behalf of everyone, not just the affluent, but the working class and the people who can’t work for whatever reason,” he added.