NY Dems Ritchie Torres, Mondaire Jones become 1st openly gay Black men elected to Congress

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Wednesday, November 4, 2020
2 NY Dems become 1st openly gay Black men elected to Congress
Kemberly Richardson has more on Ritchie Torres, who claimed victory in his congressional race against Patrick Delices.

SOUTH BRONX, New York City (WABC) -- Democrats Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones are the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress after winning their elections Tuesday to seats representing the South Bronx and parts of New York City's northern suburbs, respectively.

Torres claimed victory in his race against Patrick Delices for the 15th Congressional District seat vacated by Jose Serrano, who recently retired.

Jones defeated Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman and Conservative Party candidate Yehudis Gottesfeld in New York's 17th Congressional District, which includes all of Rockland County and portions of central and northwestern Westchester County.

The 33-year-old attorney takes over from Rep. Nita Lowey, who is retiring after more than three decades in Congress.

Related: 2020 NY election results by county, electoral college votes go to Biden

Jones grew up in subsidized housing then went to Stanford University and Harvard Law School. In a tough Democratic primary earlier this year, he beat a list of polished opponents after getting endorsements from top progressive leaders.

The 32-year-old Torres is already a historic figure in New York politics after he became the youngest elected official in New York City history when he won his City Council seat in 2013.

"But seven years before then, I was at the lowest point in my life," Torres told Eyewitness News in September. "I was struggling with depression. I had dropped out of college. There were moments when I thought of taking my own life because I felt the world around me had collapsed."

He said his decision to enter politics stemmed from his poor upbringing in Bronx public housing and the influence of his family's Hispanic roots.

"I am the product of wise Latinas, strong Puerto Rican women, my mother, and my grandmother," Torres said. "I was raised by a single mother who had to raise three children on minimum wage, which in the 1990s was $4.25 an hour. So whether it's housing or food insecurity, poverty, or inequality, the struggles of the South Bronx are not academic to me. These are struggles I've lived in my own life."

Related:Ritchie Torres credits historic rise to Latino upbringing

Against all odds, he won the election for City Council in 2013. Since stepping into the role in 2014, Torres' primary focus has been the issue closest to his heart: public housing. He's exposed the dangers of lead paint contamination, secured millions for public housing complexes in the Bronx, and investigated what he calls, "slumlords," including presidential advisor Jared Kushner.

Through it all, he hasn't lost focus on the seismic shift in politics he represents.

"For the first time, many people are beginning to see a new generation of leadership that is every bit as diverse of America itself, coming not from places of privilege, but places of struggle," he said.

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