Ritchie Torres, Mondaire Jones become 1st openly gay Black members of Congress

Both gents are Democrats from New York. And both Torres and Jones made history on Election Night.

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Democratic New Yorkers Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones have become the first openly gay Black men elected to the U.S. Congress. 

Torres, 32, who is Afro-Latino, has been a member of New York City’s city council for seven years. He won the congressional primary in his district in June when he defeated Ruben Diaz Sr., 77, also a member of the city council. 

New York City Council member Ritchie Torres (left) and attorney Mondaire Jones are Democrats from New York who were elected to the U.S. Congress Tuesday, the first openly gay Black men to join its ranks. (Torres photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The race between Torres and Diaz garnered national attention due to the comments from the elder, a Pentecostal minister who has a history of homophobia and transphobia. Diaz has previously said that New York’s city council is “controlled by the homosexual community.” He is also a supporter of President Donald Trump.

Jones, 33, won the 17th district, representing Rockland County, which includes parts of Westchester County in New York’s suburbs. The district’s previous representative, Democrat Nita Lowey, retired.

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A double Ivy League graduate, Jones graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School. He formerly worked for President Barack Obama‘s administration, serving in the Department of Justice. Most recently, he was an attorney for Westchester County’s law department.

Jones told The Advocate in June he gained a passion for helping others due to growing up with a single mother who worked three jobs. He supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, a $15 minimum wage and sweeping criminal justice reform.

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He has said that he plans to support Democratic Party goals, and now, he’ll be toiling aside New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won re-election to her seat representing the Bronx Tuesday night. 

In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Torres opened up about his struggle with depression, making it clear that issue will be an important part of his role in national politics. 

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“The devastation that COVID-19 has wrought on communities like mine is creating a mental health crisis in America, so it does figure prominently in my conversations with constituents, Torres said. 

“Most people find their elected officials to be distant and unapproachable,” he said, “and there’s something powerfully humanizing about acknowledging your own struggle with mental health.”

Torres, a progressive, says he’s a supporter of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, but contends he is more moderate than he’s been portrayed. He has said his goal would be to address immediately pressing issues for his district without taking an “all or nothing” approach. 

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