NY-17 Democratic nominee Mondaire Jones warns ‘high stakes’ of Trump and Republicans’ Project 2025

The former congressman seeking to reclaim his House seat says a Democratic Congress will be necessary if Trump is reelected to "keep him in check.”

Mondaire Jones speaks at the "Just Majority" Supreme Court Reform Press Conference With Gun Violence Prevention Advocates on April 30, 2023, in White Plains, New York. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Just Majority)

Former U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones, the Democratic nominee for New York’s 17th Congressional District, aims to reclaim his seat from Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler in one of the nation’s most closely watched House races. 

If Jones, who made history in 2020 as the first openly gay Black American elected to the United States Congress, is successful on Nov. 5, it would mean the return of a distinctive Black and queer voice on Capitol Hill. 

A lot is riding on Democrats like Jones this November. Congressional Democrats are hoping he and at least a handful of other Democrats can flip Republican-held seats in districts considered to be toss-ups. If enough GOP candidates lose in November, House Democrats would reclaim the majority and notably elect U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. If successful, Jeffries would make history as the first Black American to hold the gavel. 

“It is so critical that we flip the 17th Congressional District and restore a pro-equality majority in the House of Representatives,” Jones told theGrio during a recent sit-down interview. “These are really high stakes, especially if Donald Trump succeeds in returning to the White House. We need a Democratic Congress to keep him in check.”

Jones warns voters about the dangers of a Republican-controlled Congress, a potential second Trump administration, and Project 2025, a 900-page manifesto of policy proposals conservatives aim to enact if Trump returns to the White House in January 2025. The reported “playbook” to “institutionalize Trumpism” includes eliminating programs related to DEI or racial and gender equality and terminating the Department of Education, among other proposals.

“Project 2025 is also just evidence of the fact that a second Trump presidency will be so much worse and more sinister than the first one,” he continued. “He will not be concerned about reelection, for one thing. And he already aims, as he has said in his own words, to terminate the Constitution, to use his words.”

Trump, who recently celebrated a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court granting him broad presidential immunity from criminal prosecution, is an “extremist” running for reelection to “get out of legal trouble” and who would “throw us all under the bus in an effort to maintain power,” said Jones.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his campaign rally at Crotona Park in the South Bronx on Thursday, May 23, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

On the campaign trail, the former congressman has painted his opponent, Rep. Lawler, as a “MAGA” extremist who will help Trump and Republicans carry out controversial policies like enacting a national abortion ban. The 37-year-old characterized Lawler as an “extension of Trumpism,” noting that he was a delegate for Trump in 2016 and “got paid to reelect him in 2020,” adding the Republican lawmaker “doubled down on that extremism” by supporting Trump’s 2024 bid and dismissing his 34-count conviction as a “partisan witch hunt.”

However, Jones faces some challenges in his efforts to unseat Lawler and return to Congress. His endorsement of George Latimer, who recently beat U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., in the New York primary over differences of opinion on the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, has alienated Jones from progressives, whom he aligned with during his time in Congress.

The decision to endorse the opponent of his former ally led to the House Progressive Caucus PAC and Working Families Party rescinding their endorsements of Jones, who was bested by Anthony Frascone on the WFP’s New York primary ballot. 

Jones tells theGrio he is proud of his “pragmatic” and “independent” record in Congress and dismissed any criticisms of his endorsement of Latimer. Bowman, he said, did not have a record of being a “unifying voice” and trafficked in “conspiracy theories,” likely referring to Bowman saying that reports of Israeli women being raped during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 were “propaganda” (Bowman apologized months later).

“The vast majority of my former colleagues understand the importance of moving in a different direction, even if some of the more loud voices have been in their feelings about it recently,” Jones said of his endorsement. “I also am fully cognizant of the fact that we will be moving forward as a unified Democratic Party in this most important election of our lifetimes.”

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Jones said that given the threats of a second Trump administration and Republican agenda, “groups of good conscience” must “come together” and “bridge whatever divides may exist on sort of discrete policy issues for the broader purpose of saving our democracy and defeating MAGA extremism and fascism.” 

Democrats must regain power in Congress, he argued, in order to protect and strengthen “the gains that the LGBTQ+ and Black communities have been making over the past many years.”

“So much of what has been happening, including decisions that were pro-equality by the Supreme Court, are now unraveling,” he griped. “They’re being threatened by legislation in State houses around the country and at the federal level, with a new Supreme Court [conservative] majority.”

Jones, who, while in Congress, co-sponsored a bill to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court following controversial decisions by the court’s conservative majority, said Democrats could finally enact a number of bills if they win back the majority. Those include legislation to protect voting rights and the Equality Act, which would enshrine federal protections for LGBTQ Americans against discrimination.

“There’s a lot of division, even within the Democratic Party … on certain issues right now that are of great importance. But we have to see the bigger project here of saving America,” said Jones.