The prospect of a nasty primary between two New York Democrats in neighboring U.S. House districts faded away early Saturday morning.
Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), a first-term progressive, announced on Twitter that he was choosing not to compete in a primary against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and announced plans earlier this week to run for the seat Jones currently holds.
Instead, Jones plans to run in New York’s newly drawn 10th Congressional District, which consists of lower Manhattan and several contiguous neighborhoods in central and south Brooklyn.
Jones, one of Congress’ first two openly gay Black men, noted that lower Manhattan is home to the Stonewall Inn, where an uprising in 1969 launched the LGBTQ rights movement.
“This is the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ rights movement,” he tweeted shortly after New York state’s court-appointed special master released the final congressional district maps. “Since long before the Stonewall Uprising, queer people of color have sought refuge within its borders.”
Jones’ announcement alleviates tension that had been building since Monday when the special master released an initial draft of new congressional district maps. (The final maps published early Saturday morning contain minor changes from the Monday draft.)
Immediately after the Monday maps came out, Maloney, who currently represents New York’s 18th Congressional District, announced that he planned to run in the redrawn 17th Congressional District.
The step was controversial because Jones presently represents New York’s 17th, which comprises suburban communities and small cities north of New York City.
Under the boundaries unveiled on Monday, Maloney would live in the 17th and Jones no longer would live in his district. But the new 17th consists mostly of communities currently held by Jones, not Maloney.
Jones cried foul, complaining that Maloney had failed to give him notice before announcing the decision.
“Sean Patrick Maloney did not even give me a heads up before he went on Twitter to make that announcement,” Jones told Politico. “And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Sean Patrick Maloney.”
Jones’ allies in Congress and the world of progressive activism offered additional objections.
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), a first-term lawmaker who along with Jones is an openly gay Black man in Congress, argued that Jones should be viewed as the incumbent in New York’s 17th by default, and accused Maloney allies of “thinly veiled racism” for arguing that Jones would be a better ideological fit in a different seat.
That Maloney appeared to be putting Jones in the position of choosing between running against him and running against Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a fellow Black progressive in his first term, added insult to injury. (In the new map, Jones and Bowman both live in the 16th Congressional District, which Bowman represents in Congress.)
Other Democrats accused Maloney of putting his own electoral fortunes ahead of the party’s, in defiance of his responsibilities as head of the DCCC, House Democrats’ campaign arm. Maloney’s current seat, New York’s 18th, was drawn to extend farther into conservative, rural communities in upstate New York, making it a harder seat for him to hold.
If Maloney followed through on plans to run against Jones, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told Politico he should resign as head of the DCCC.
In the end though, Jones decided that despite his grievances with Maloney, he did not want to compete for New York’s 17th. It’s possible that Jones feared a 17th District that extended farther north into more rural counties would prove less amenable to his progressive brand ― and potentially put him at risk in the general election.
As a native of Rockland County and resident of Westchester County, Jones is now likely to face criticisms of his own for running in an area he has never represented in elected office before.
Although Jones has ample campaign cash, he is due to compete in a crowded field of Democrats who already live in, or represent, New York’s 10th. Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), a resident of Brooklyn’s liberal Park Slope neighborhood, and state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D) have both announced their intentions to run for the seat, as has New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D). New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera has also indicated that she plans to run in the primary for the safely Democratic seat.
Jones will have until Aug. 23 to introduce himself to voters in the 10th. (Earlier this month, a federal judge required New York state to postpone its June congressional primaries to provide time for candidates and voters to adjust to the new maps.)
Jones suggested on Twitter that he plans to run on his record in the past two years, such as helping shepherd the American Rescue Plan, infrastructure legislation, investments in affordable housing, and protection of LGBTQ rights.
“I’m excited to make my case for why I’m the right person to lead this district forward and to continue my work in Congress to save our democracy from the threats of the far right,” he wrote. “In my first term in Congress, I have worked hard to deliver real results for New York State.”