Democrat Mondaire Jones won election in New York City’s northern suburbs, setting him up to become one of the first two openly gay Black men to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jones, 33, a Harvard-trained lawyer, defeated Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey.
Jones' victory, declared Wednesday by The Associated Press, follows the election of another young, gay, Black Democrat. Ritchie Torres, a 32-year-old New York City Council member who identifies as Afro-Latino, won Tuesday in a district in the Bronx.
“Mondaire and Ritchie have shattered a rainbow ceiling and will bring unique perspectives based on lived experiences never before represented in the U.S. Congress,” said former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
Openly gay white people have served in Congress since the 1980s, as well as at least one Black member of Congress who chose not to speak publicly about her sexuality, the late U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan, of Texas.
Jones said he'll be proud to represent the district, which includes Rockland County and part of Westchester County, and he called his election and that of Torres a watershed moment in American politics.
“It is a travesty that we don’t have more representation at the highest levels of government, but that is changing with elections like my own and that of Ritchie Torres in New York’s 15th Congressional District,” he said.
Jones said he and Torres were friends before they ran for Congress and have kept in touch. “It’s exciting to have someone else in Congress who understands my experiences,” he said at a video news conference.
More than 1.2 million absentee ballots were cast by mail in the state’s election. The process of counting those absentee ballots could take several weeks in some races, and isn’t set to start for several days.
In other congressional races, several Democratic incumbents were trying to fend off Republican challengers.
On Staten Island, Republican Nicole Malliotakis had a substantial lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who is seeking a second term. Malliotakis declared victory a little over an hour after polls closed, but The Associated Press has not yet called a winner in the race. Rose said it was too early to declare a winner.
In central New York, former Republican U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney also had a lead over U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, the Democrat who ousted her from office in 2018. The large number of absentee ballots cast in New York also made that contest among those too difficult to call.
Democrats were close to gaining a supermajority in the state Legislature, needing to pick up two seats in the Senate for that to happen.
It was uncertain Wednesday whether they would hit that mark.
Several Democrats fighting to flip GOP seats declared victory as results came in, including nonprofit professional Samra Brouk and lawyer Jeremy Cooney, who both ran in districts in Rochester and some of its suburbs, and longtime Assembly member Sean Ryan in the Buffalo area.
But at least eight key state Senate races in Democratic districts lacked a clear winner Wednesday, making it unclear whether Republicans picked up enough seats to offset any Democrat gains.
“In a year that was very difficult for Democratic candidates not just for New York but across the country, we are holding our own and we may grow our numbers,” Deputy Majority Senate Leader Michael Gianaris, of Queens, said.
Republicans are hoping for gains in suburban districts on Long Island and north of New York City, where cosmetics heir Ron Lauder bankrolled a roughly $5 million effort to unseat incumbent Democrats.