Two years after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned the Democratic establishment with her primary win over longtime Rep. Joe Crowley, the grassroots progressive movement has spread to surrounding congressional districts in New York—including in wealthy Westchester County, where Mondaire Jones won the Democratic primary in the 17th congressional district Tuesday night.
Jones won nearly 45% of the vote in the eight-candidate race to replace Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who is retiring. The attorney and activist will face Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman in the general election in a district which has not been represented by the GOP since 1983.
Running on a platform including Medicare for All, which he put forth as one of the obvious solutions to help address the coronavirus pandemic in recent months, noting that tens of millions of Americans lost their employer-based health coverage amid the resulting unemployment crisis. He also pledged to fight for tuition-free public college, student debt relief, and the Green New Deal.
"I've said from the beginning of this race that policy is personal," said Jones in his victory speech. "I have talked about big structural changes.... Sometimes an idea is so powerful that it becomes an unstoppable force: a movement."
Writer Nick Rafter noted that Jones's victory in a district where the median yearly income is nearly $100,000 may surprise those who have claimed progressive victories like Ocasio-Cortez's are only likely in urban and lower-income areas.
"These districts are the type of wealthy white suburbs [progressives] believe wouldn't be open to their ideas," tweeted Rafter.
Others agreed that the district which handed a victory to Jones, who grew up in the 17th district in Section 8 housing, was significant.
If attorney Mondaire Jones (D)'s lead holds, he'll be the first Black, AOC-backed candidate to represent #NY17 - a 60% white, high-income seat that includes Chappaqua.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) June 24, 2020
I'm looking at Mondaire Jones, not just Bowman. I'm aware that NY-16 isn't over yet. Just the fact that it's a race at all is a sea change from what Westchester was like in the 1980s, a bastion of country club Republicans (as well as racists segregating Yonkers).
— Bill Scher (@billscher) June 24, 2020
the idea that westchester is going from being represented by engel and nita lowey overnight to jamaal bowman and mondaire jones is so fucking awesome
— Aaron Eisenberg (@ae53) June 24, 2020
Just south of the 17th district, in The Bronx and lower Westchester, former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman won against 16-term Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) with a platform focusing partially on redirecting military spending to fund schools. healthcare, and social services. Bowman specifically attacked Engel's vote in favor of the Iraq War and his support for possible strikes on Iran.
Both Bowman and Jones have advocated for adding seats to the U.S. Supreme Court to better represent working people and the common good. Their victories, advocacy group Demand Justice said, should be taken as a clear signal to the Democratic Party that voters are eager to be represented by outspoken progressives.
"Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones are part of a new generation of progressive leaders who understand that we need to fight back aggressively against Donald Trump's assault on our democracy," said Brian Fallon, executive director of the group, in a statement. "It is time for more Democrats in the House and Senate to hear this message from the grassroots and get behind this urgent proposal."
Ocasio-Cortez easily defeated Wall Street-backed challenger Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in the 14th congressional district and tweeted that progressive victories across the densely-populated New York City area demonstrate that the rise of the progressive movement in the state "isn't an accident."
"It's a mandate," she wrote.
When I won in 2018, many dismissed our victory as a “fluke.”
Our win was treated as an aberration, or bc my opponent “didn’t try.”
So from the start, tonight’s race was important to me.
Tonight we are proving that the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It‘s a mandate.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 24, 2020
At the state level, Democratic Socialists of America-backed candidate Jabari Brisport won the primary for New York's 25th state Senate district and incumbent progressive Yuh-Line Niou defeated challenger Grace Lee, who was backed by real estate interests, in the 65th state Assembly district—which includes New York City's Financial District and Wall Street.
"Bowman wins. Mondaire wins. AOC absolutely crushes it," journalist David Atkins tweeted. "There is no question about the direction of the Democratic Party. The voters are proudly progressive."