TWO NEW YORKERS POISED TO BECOME FIRST BLACK GAY MEN IN CONGRESS

Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones are poised to become the first openly gay Black members of either house of Congress.

Both won their Democratic primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives in heavily blue New York districts Tuesday, with Torres defeating notorious homophobe Rubén Díaz Sr., so both are likely winners in the November general election. Torres would also be the first Afro-Latinx congressman from the LGBTQ+ community.

Torres prevailed in a field of 12 candidates in the 15th Congressional District, located in the South Bronx area of New York City. He is currently a member of the City Council, as is Díaz, who was previously a state senator. Díaz, a Pentecostal minister, is the definition of a Democrat in name only, having taken numerous homophobic positions (as a state senator, he was the only Democrat to vote against marriage equality), opposed abortion rights, and praised Donald Trump. He even had the endorsement of the anti-LGBTQ+ National Organization for Marriage.

Torres has received 30.5 percent of the vote, according to the latest count from The New York Times. Michael Blake, a New York State Assembly member, finished second with 19.4 percent. Díaz was considered a front-runner going into the election, largely because of name recognition, but he finished third with 14.7 percent. There was no incumbent in the race, as the district’s longtime representative, Jose Serrano, is retiring.

Some media outlets have yet to call the race for Torres (mail-in ballots are still being counted in all races), but the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed him, has pronounced him the winner.

“Voters in the Bronx rejected the politics of bigotry and instead put Ritchie on track to become the first openly LGBTQ Afro-Latinx member of Congress,” said a statement released by Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker. “At a time when our country is divided and we confront the realities of racism and police brutality, it is essential we have a voice like Ritchie’s fighting to turn the demands of protesters into legislative change at the federal level. While he will make history in November, we know Ritchie runs not to put his name in the record book, but to continue his work to expand and improve affordable housing and secure criminal justice reform for his constituents.”

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which also endorsed Torres, praised him for having “beat back the most virulently anti-LGBTQ viable Democratic candidate for Congress in decades.” He called Torres “a change-maker, a rare elected official with both the vision and skill to move a community forward.”

Jones won in a crowded field in New York’s 17th Congressional District, in the suburbs of New York City; it covers Rockland County and part of Westchester County. He is a lawyer and activist who has worked for Westchester County and in President Barack Obama’s administration.

The latest numbers from the Times show Jones with 44.8 percent of the vote, with former federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer having 20.6 percent and State Sen. David Carlucci having 11 percent. There was also no incumbent in this race, as another House veteran, Nita Lowey, is retiring.

Jones was endorsed by Victory Fund and HRC, among others. “LGBTQ people and African Americans are severely underrepresented in the U.S. Congress, but Mondaire’s victory gives hope that we are moving toward a federal government that is more representative of the people it serves,” Parker said in a statement. “Mondaire’s unique experiences and perspectives as well as his work in criminal justice reform makes him an essential voice for this moment. When he wins in November, he will make history as one of the first openly LGBTQ Black members of Congress. But more importantly, he can be an influential member in the coming debates to address racism and police brutality, and in passing the Equality Act.”

David noted, “For too long, Black LGBTQ people have been pushed to the sidelines, even within our own community. But that dynamic has shifted, Mondaire Jones ran his campaign unapologetically embracing his identity and his dedication to creating a more equal America.”

Parker added, “Ritchie and Mondaire have shattered a long-standing political barrier with their primary wins, putting them on-track to becoming the first two openly LGBTQ Black members of Congress. Black LGBTQ people — like all LGBTQ people — are severely underrepresented at every level of government, but this gives hope that we are moving toward building a U.S. Congress that is more representative of the people it serves.”

Another out candidate for Congress from New York did not prevail. Jonathan Herzog failed to defeat Jerrold Nadler, a longtime representative and LGBTQ+ ally, in the 10th Congressional District. The district covers parts of two New York City boroughs, Manhattan (including the heavily LGBTQ+ Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village) and Brooklyn. The latest Times count shows Nadler with 62.2 percent of the vote, Lindsey Boylan with 25.3 percent, and Herzog with 12.6 percent.

SOURCE: ADVOCATE

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