“I’ve never been Washington’s choice. It’s because I stand up to corruption. I battle with Republicans trying to overthrow our democracy and ban abortion, even as I push my party to fight harder for working people. I’m running to finish the work I began,” Mr Jones tweeted on Wednesday morning alongside an announcement video.
A spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee said in a statement that “the battle royale is on in New York – setting up a brutal race to the left that will leave Democrats’ eventual nominee bruised and broke”.
“Mondaire Jones’ defund the police and cashless bail advocacy is more in line with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than the voters in the Hudson Valley he abandoned. In 2022, after running in South Manhattan and Brooklyn, Jones shut down his official offices early and left thousands of Hudson Valley residents in a lurch, and we look forward to reminding them of that,” spokesperson Savannah Viar said.
Following years of legal work, including a period as a law clerk at the US District Court in the Southern District of New York, Mr Jones won his home congressional district in 2020.
After redistricting last year, the then-chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sean Patrick Maloney, chose to run in Mr Jones’s former district. Mr Jones ran in the 10th District, losing in the primary to Representative Dan Goldman.
Mr Jones left Congress when his term ended at the start of this year.
In the fight to take back the 17th District, Mr Jones is going up against Liz Gereghty, the sister of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, in the Democratic Primary.
During Mr Jones’s term in Congress between 2021 and 2023, he represented about three-quarters of the current district.
The seat, which is now in the Republican hands of Representative Mike Lawler after Mr Maloney’s midterm loss in 2022, is an important comeback opportunity for Democrats in their fight to take back the US House of Representatives, which is currently narrowly controlled by the GOP.
Some members of the Democratic Party were outraged when Mr Maloney decided to run for Mr Jones’s seat, in the end leading to both of them being ousted from Congress.
“I think what happened last year with redistricting, and the behaviour of some Democrats in Washington was a national travesty, felt most acutely by the residents of my district in the Hudson Valley. And that is an injustice that I look forward to correcting,” Mr Jones told The Independent in late May.
In his announcement video published on Wednesday morning, Mr Jones says, “I was lucky to grow up in Rockland County, raised by a young single mom who like so many incredible women throughout this district, still had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet”.
“My grandfather was a janitor and my grandmother cleaned homes. People here invested in me and helped me find my way. I made it from East Ramapo public schools all the way to Harvard Law. Growing up, I didn’t see people like me in Congress, then I was elected to represent the same people whose homes I watched my grandmother clean,” he adds.
The video includes endorsements from a parent concerned about gun violence and Dave Ryan of the Hudson Valley Police, who rebuts one of the attacks from the NRCC, saying that Mr Jones provided police funding. A construction worker notes the investments in local infrastructure.
“Most people in Washington didn’t grow up like me,” Mr Jones says at the end of the video. “They have no idea what it’s like to struggle. We got to get Washington back on the side of working people. I know we can do better. For me, this is personal.”
During his time out of Congress, Mr Jones has been a commissioner on the US Commission on Civil Rights and a CNN political commentator.
Even before officially announcing his campaign, Mr Jones made clear that he believed that he needed to be back in the House of Representatives.
“My absence from Congress this term I think is glaring given the work that’s not being done … and look at what happened in Uganda,” the commissioner said when speaking to The Independent on 31 May.
An anti-gay bill was signed into law on 29 May by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The law includes the death penalty for what’s referred to as “aggravated homosexuality” – meaning those having sex while being HIV positive, those having sex with minors or others considered to be vulnerable.
Under the law, an individual found guilty of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be sent to prison for 14 years.
“As the nation’s first openly gay, Black member of Congress, I’d be in that body, leading the charge to get Uganda to reverse that law that was just enacted, and pushing the United States to do what it could to protect the lives and livelihoods of the LGBTQ+ community in that country, including, but not limited to economic sanctions,” Mr Jones added at the time.
In 2020, Mr Jones became the first openly gay African American elected to Congress alongside fellow New York Representative Ritchie Torres, who also became the first openly gay Hispanic member.
“As someone who’s Black and gay, I’m uniquely situated to speak to the experience of the Black LGBTQ+ community in an African nation like Uganda,” Mr Jones noted before he criticised what he calls an “assault” on democracy and LGBT+ rights by the US Supreme Court.
“I understood that an assault on multiracial democracy and on LGBTQ+ rights, and on the rights of racial and ethnic minorities are things that are urgent because I live those experiences,” he added.