Why I’m Running for Congress

Mondaire Jones
Jul 8, 2019 · 5 min read

Growing up in the Village of Spring Valley, my mother told me that I could be anything I wanted. It was a radical idea. My mom, who struggled with mental illness, had dropped out of college and was working multiple jobs just to make ends meet — even as we relied on section 8 housing and food stamps.

Like many single mothers, mine leaned on her parents for help raising her kid. My grandparents had left Jim Crow in Virginia to start a family in New York, where their community in Rockland County embraced them. My grandfather was a janitor at Pomona Middle School. My grandmother cleaned homes in Congers and Hillcrest. When daycare was too expensive, she took me with her. Later, she served lunch in East Ramapo public schools, which I attended as a child and have been fighting for as an adult.

I took my mother’s words to heart and dreamed big. I earned degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Law School. I worked in President Obama’s administration at the Department of Justice and, until last week, as a litigator and legal advisor in Westchester County’s Law Department. I serve on the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union and co-founded a nonprofit that teaches professional skills to underserved middle-school students. Years ago, I returned to Rockland to help a community that has given so much to me and my family.

Too many people in New York’s 17th congressional district, which includes all of Rockland and parts of central and northern Westchester, are struggling. Residents of both counties pay the highest property taxes in the nation, yet wages have remained stagnant for decades and Donald Trump’s cap on the State and Local Tax deduction added to our burdens. Crippled by student debt and low earnings, young adults live with their parents because they cannot afford to pay rent or buy a home. Healthcare costs continue to rise as insurance companies place profits over people.

I am running for Congress in the 2020 Democratic Primary because every kid in this district should be able to dream big. My story should not be the exception, but thanks to leaders who have failed for decades to deliver, it is. Changing the status quo for those children, and for the hundreds of thousands of families in this district, requires a Representative who will fight relentlessly in Washington.

I have been fighting my whole life, whether it has been in the courtroom, as an activist, or against the odds. When I am elected to Congress, I will be a leader in the fight for bold, progressive policies that benefit us all: the cancellation of student debt, universal healthcare, a $15 minimum wage, universal childcare, and a Green New Deal. These and other projects are personal for me. I know what it is like to have my life upended by student debt. When I graduated law school with $120K in loans, I had to work at a firm before I was liberated to work in public service full-time. I have also seen firsthand the immorality of this country’s healthcare system. Even with bad knees, my grandmother worked well into her 70s just to cover the costs of over-priced medical procedures and prescription drugs. People like my mother should not have to work multiple jobs just to survive, even after income-based government assistance. And my grandmother should not have had to take me to work with her, because in this broken, low-wage economy, government should help parents meet the costs of expensive childcare. Further, it is outrageous that my generation stands to inherit a planet devastated by climate change because Congress has failed to treat it like the crisis that it is.

The incumbent in my race is Nita Lowey, a fellow Democrat for whom I have great respect. Since she began serving in Congress in 1989, she has made remarkable history. But we can respect a trailblazer while recognizing that it is time for a change. This year, as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Nita Lowey voted to give $7.6 billion to ICE, which has been tearing families apart at our border and locking kids in cages. Right here in the district, ICE has been committing human rights abuses in places like Peekskill, Ossining, Haverstraw, and Spring Valley.

Representative Lowey also failed, as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, to block any federal budget that did not include a repeal of Donald Trump’s cap on the State and Local Tax deduction, which crushed taxpayers in Rockland and Westchester. Ask yourself: What good is chairing a powerful committee if your Representative does not use her authority effectively when it matters most? Since passing Trump’s budget, Lowey has abdicated her constitutional responsibility by refusing to support impeachment proceedings against the President, despite overwhelming evidence of his crimes in the Mueller Report.

Representative Lowey has a 30-year history of getting things wrong, often to the detriment of vulnerable populations. She voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans and sent a message to us that we were less than human. As a kid struggling with self-acceptance in the ’90s, that message was devastating. Lowey voted for the Crime Bill, which accelerated mass incarceration and ravaged low-income communities and communities of color. She voted to gut welfare by limiting the number of years that families could receive needs-based assistance. She helped bring us the endless War in Iraq. And Nita Lowey opposed President Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal. Since Lowey has gotten her way, and Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from that strategic agreement, Iran has resumed its nuclear weapons program.

In Congress, I will be a fighter for not just some, but all people in this district. And I will speak with moral clarity at all times — regardless of political expediency. This is why I am not taking donations from corporate PACs. Nita Lowey, by contrast, takes money from donors like Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and the Sackler Family, which caused the opioid crisis.

In this safely blue district, the Democratic Party is capable of challenging Republicans even as it challenges itself to be better. Next June, Democrats will — after 30 years — finally have a choice. We can remain stuck in the past, which has left too many of us behind, or we can build the future we have always wanted.

Learn more about our campaign here.

Mondaire Jones

Written by

Mondaire Jones is a Democratic candidate running in NY’s 17th Congressional District, which includes all of Rockland and parts of central/northern Westchester.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade