2 New York Candidates May Soon Become the First Openly Gay Black People in Congress
"Growing up poor, Black and gay, I would never have imagined that someone like me could run for Congress," Mondaire Jones told TIME
Two candidates in New York are on their way to becoming the first openly gay Black members of Congress.
The state held its Democratic primaries on Tuesday, with final results expected to be counted by June 30 once all the absentee ballots are in.
However, early counts show that lawyer Mondaire Jones and New York City Councilman Ritchie Torre are poised to win their primaries, paving the way for their victories in the November general election. (Both of their districts reliably vote Democrat.)
According to TIME, should both candidates win in November, Jones and Torres would be the first openly gay Black members of Congress. Torres would also become the first openly gay Afro-Latino congressman.
“Growing up poor, Black and gay, I would never have imagined that someone like me could run for Congress, let alone be a leading contender for the Democratic nomination,” Jones, who is running in New York’s 17th Congressional District in the lower Hudson Valley, told TIME. “I’m really grateful for this opportunity to inspire people and to change history.”
Jones previously worked in the Department of Justice during President Barack Obama's administration and recently served as an attorney in the Westchester County Law Department.
The 33-year-old has won the backing of prominent progressive figures such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
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As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jones had around 44.8 percent of the vote, according to The New York Times.
"The historic nature of this moment is not lost of me,” he told TIME. “It’s not just about representation. It’s about what your lived experience brings to policy discussions.”
“Growing up, had I been able to see someone quite like myself in Congress, it would have been direct evidence of the fact that things really do get better,” he added. “This has been a long time coming — approximately 244 years.”
Torres is running to represent New York’s 15th Congressional District in the Bronx.
The 32-year-old was first elected to the N.Y.C. council back in 2013 at 25. He became the youngest member of the council and the first openly gay elected official in the Bronx.
As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the Times reported that Torres had 30.5 percent of the vote.
“I’m not prepared to declare victory until every vote is counted, but even if I win the election, it is governing that matters and delivering results for the everyday people of the Bronx,” Torres said in a statement to TIME. “It would be the honor of my life to represent this borough. It’s my home.”
“I would not be here today if it were not for my mother,” he continued. “The South Bronx is full of mothers like mine who have have suffered, struggled and sacrificed so we can have a better life. The opportunity to represent the essential workers of this borough and the powerful mothers of the Bronx, would be the culmination of a dream.”