Mondaire Jones has won the race to represent New York’s 17th District, becoming one of the first Black LGBTQ members of Congress. Jones, an attorney from Spring Valley, New York, vowed to support expansion of the Supreme Court, back the Green New Deal, and push for criminal justice reform.
Jones told The Appeal he wants the government to invest in alternatives to incarceration, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, abolish private prisons and the federal death penalty, and legalize cannabis. He also wants to make federal funds for local municipalities conditional on independent procedures for investigating killings at the hands of police.
Jones was raised in Rockland County, which is part of the congressional district he will represent. His district also includes parts of Westchester County. He’ll replace longtime Representative Nita Lowey, who is retiring after 32 years.
Along with criminal justice reform, Jones said he is prioritizing changes to protect the country from attacks on democracy. Among these, he’s been a strong supporter for expanding the Supreme Court. He advocated for expansion even before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and said that it’s vital to achieving the reforms that former Vice President Joe Biden hopes to achieve if he becomes president.
“To ensure that legislation has permanence, we must unrig the Supreme Court and ensure that we no longer have a hyper partisan majority that is hostile to Congress,” Jones said. He added that Chief Justice John Roberts’s role has been to “systematically undermine our democratic institutions,” referring to the court’s 2013 ruling that invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that protected voters from discrimination.
Jones thinks that the Court expansion should be included in the For the People Act, a bill passed by the House last year and awaits Senate action that would strengthen voting rights and ethics rules, and limit gerrymandering. He said he also plans to introduce legislation to expand the court and is “looking forward to being the leading voice on this issue in the House of Representatives.”
Jones, who was endorsed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, is also a supporter of the Green New Deal. The legislation, introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, sets targets for cutting carbon emissions while also creating jobs. Jones said he is committed to tackling the climate crisis and wants to introduce high-speed rail in Rockland County that would get residents to New York City in one ride, as opposed to driving or taking the bus.
“Nothing else matters if we don’t have a planet to inhabit and we have to start acting like that,” Jones said.