Editor's Note: Maureen McArdle-Schulman did return her questionnaire. However, after publication, she submitted a statement. The article has been updated with her statement.
HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y. – Mondaire Jones, having emerged from an eight-way Democratic Party primary in June, is considered by many to be the presumptive successor to U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, who is retiring after three decades in the House of Representatives.
The 17th Congressional District is predominantly Democratic, with 78,781 voters turning out for the Democratic Party primary compared to 11,140 voters in the Republican Party primary, which was won by Maureen McArdle-Schulman.
McArdle-Schulman, a Yorktown resident, is a retired New York City firefighter. This is her first run for public office.
Jones, who lives in Nyack, worked in the United States Department of Justice during the presidency of Barack Obama. He’s worked as a litigator at a Manhattan law firm, has done pro bone work for the Legal Aid Society, clerked for a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, and worked as a lawyer in the Westchester County Law Department.
In addition to Jones and Schulman, this race features three third-party candidates: Yehudis Gottesfeld (Conservative Party), Joshua Eisen (Education. Community. Law. Party), and Michael Parietti (Serve America Movement Party).
The town of Yorktown has 43 election districts. The 17th Congressional District covers 42 of them. One district (No. 32) is represented by the 18th Congressional District.
Mondaire Jones (D, WF)
Start off by telling the voters a little bit about yourself (your education, professional career, other qualifications/accomplishments)
My story, quintessentially, is that of the American Dream. I grew up in the working-class village of Spring Valley, where I was raised by a young, single mom who, like so many women throughout my district, and all throughout this country, worked multiple jobs just to provide for our family—even as we relied on Section 8 housing and food stamps. My mom got help from my grandparents. My grandfather was a janitor at our local middle school, and later, he was a small business owner. My grandmother cleaned homes.
I attended East Ramapo public schools. While in high school, I reactivated the Spring Valley NAACP Youth Council, through which I organized my peers and my community to pass a public school budget in the East Ramapo Central School District.
Thanks to a quality public education, which was at that time attainable in East Ramapo, I gained admission to Stanford University. As a senior at Stanford, after the Palo Alto police chief made comments embracing racial profiling, I successfully organized my fellow students and Palo Alto residents to pressure the department until she resigned and we obtained much-needed policing reforms.
After graduating from Stanford, I served in the Obama Administration at the Department of Justice, where I worked within the Office of Legal Policy on criminal justice reform and judicial nominations (including now-Supreme Court Justice Kagan). That experience helped me engage with and learn the inner-workings of our federal government and gives me a keen understanding of how to make policy at the federal level.
I went on to Harvard Law School, where I strengthened my understanding of the legal system. While at Harvard, I provided free legal services to indigent defendants in Dorchester and Roxbury, where I saw up close that there are truly two legal systems in this country: one that works for the wealthy and well-connected, and another one for everyone else.
Following law school, I worked as a litigator for several years at a major law firm in Manhattan, where I was awarded by the Legal Aid Society of New York for my hundreds of hours of pro bono service investigating claims of employment discrimination and helping families defrauded during the Great Recession get some of their money back. I also clerked for a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, which covers Westchester and Rockland Counties.
More recently, I served as a lawyer in the Westchester County Law Department, where I worked on and won some of the county’s biggest cases and helped draft legislation to strengthen the ability of the Westchester County Human Rights Commission to respond to the uptick in acts of hate in Westchester. I also co-founded a national nonprofit called Rising Leaders, Inc., which teaches professional skills to underserved middle-school students in two American cities, and has gotten two grants from the Gates Foundation, which gave me hands-on experience in improving the lives of our most vulnerable young people, and insight into what interventions work best.
What are your core values? What guides you in your personal life, professional career, and as a politician?
I live my life by the golden rule: treat others how you wish to be treated.
Growing up, my family didn’t have much. My mom and my grandparents worked themselves to the bone to provide for me, and even with government assistance, still struggled to make ends meet. It literally took a village—the village of Spring Valley—to help raise me. I still remember the kindness shown to me by members of the community—friends, teachers, fellow congregants at church. Without them, I would not be where I am today. That taught me just how important it is to treat others with kindness—and that is a lesson I carry with me throughout my personal, professional, and political careers.
Because of my lived experiences, I believe that everyone—and I mean everyone—should be able to live in dignity. I don’t want other children to grow up with the same economic and identity-based worries I had. That has driven me to a life of service, in both the public and nonprofit sectors. I believe that, in a nation as wealthy as the United States, we can provide for everyone’s basic human right to an affordable roof over their heads, life-affirming health care, quality education, and equal treatment under the law regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Because we should treat everyone—both those we know and those we don’t—the way we wish to be treated. And because stories like mine—of someone beating overwhelming odds to succeed in America—should not be the exception.
What do you believe are the most pressing issues facing not just District 17, but this nation? And do you have an action plan for your first 100 days in office?
The single most pressing issue facing our district and our nation is the failure of our democracy, and my first order of business will be to fix it.
Who would have thought we would be approaching a time when the president of the United States would refuse to concede his loss in an election and attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power? That is precisely what Donald Trump has threatened, and given what we know about him, we must take his threat seriously.
There’s no question that our democracy is thoroughly broken. In many states, partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts produces uncompetitive campaigns and results that do not reflect the will of the people. It’s a major reason why so many people in Congress do not act in the best interests of the American people. Another reason is the overriding role of money in our campaign finance system, which operates so that, overwhelmingly, the candidates who make it onto the ballot and win elections are captured by corporate interests and wealthy donors. Meanwhile, tens of millions of eligible voters are unable to meet overly restrictive voting rules.
That’s why I support the For the People Act (H.R. 1) to counteract a decades-long, undemocratic, right-wing assault on our democracy. The legislation includes measures like automatic voter registration to add nearly 50 million voters to the rolls, campaign finance reform to reduce the outsize influence of big money, independent redistricting to end partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, and prohibitions on voter suppression.
As long as our democracy remains rigged, real change—health care for everyone, protecting our environment, common-sense gun safety, dismantling systemic racism, tax fairness, and strengthening reproductive justice—will remain out of reach.
It’s time to take our democracy back from billionaires and special interests, and I am ready to lead that fight.
You are representing the Democratic Party in this election. What does it mean to you to be a Democrat?
To me, being a Democrat means standing up for everyday people, and fighting for justice for all.
It means fighting for everyday Americans, who urgently need this economy to work for them. It means recognizing that no one should face financial ruin for obtaining lifesaving health care. It means acknowledging that climate change is real, and fighting to ensure that our children inherit a habitable planet. It means committing to end the scourge of gun violence. It means protecting the right of all people to access necessary reproductive services. And it means protecting vulnerable people—people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and creeds—from insidious discrimination.
The Democratic Party is the party of the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement. It’s the party that brought us Social Security, Medicare, and the Voting Rights Act. I’m a Democrat because I want to carry that legacy into the 21st century by building an America that truly works for all of us, not just a privileged few.
Maureen McArdle-Schulman (R)
In January 2019, I stepped back from my retired life and watched as our government was not representing the best interest of the of our families, our communities, and our district. As a woman who broke the glass ceiling in 1982 and served in the New York City Fire Department in East Harlem for over 20 years, I found our leadership’s behavior unacceptable. Today, we see politicians and political candidates for office representing special interest groups and playing identity politics.
Recently we have observed the radical anti-police policies of the Marxist/anti-American defund the police movement. This movement has caused mayhem and destruction to our lives, businesses, and personal property. Our once peaceful, safe, and welcoming communities have descended into anarchy and chaos from agitators who wish to change our way of life. Did you know my Democratic opponent in this Congressional race was out protesting our country a few months ago with this Marxist organization? I ask you: How can he raise his hand and swear allegiance protect our country against enemies foreign and domestic when he is actively taking part in a process to violently subvert our rule of law? He will not. He will serve the Marxist organization that is attempting to overthrow OUR Republic and OUR way of life. What will our country look like under a Marxist regime? There will be no such thing as freedom of press, freedom of speech, the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, private property rights and the rights to keep and bear arms. As your Congressional representative, my responsibility is to secure your personal liberties and freedoms while ensuring equal justice under the law for all. Our country was founded on the individual right of self-determination. People have the right to choose liberty, the pursuit of happiness and equality under the law, and not be governed by mandate.
I know all work is essential and that is a great value in providing for our families and pride in a job well done. I also know that our regional economy has been tremendously affected because of coronavirus. I have driven through many towns and villages in Westchester and Rockland County, I have met business owners who are barely making ends meet and others who are closing forever. A business owner I met has a staff of over 15, and his venue usually hosts 400 parties a year. This year, due to coronavirus, he had 10 parties due to mandated closure of his business. On top of that, his property taxes were due. He owes $100,000. He was unsure of his next moves, but his story is one of the many that I heard while listening to business owners, my future constituents.
When I served the people of East Harlem as a member of FDNY, I never picked and chose those I would serve; I never told people to fall in line or to fight their own fires. I have always been humbled to serve and I am asking you to VOTE for Maureen McArdle Schulman on Tuesday Nov. 3.
My objective is to “Bring Americans Together,” regardless of party affiliations. We will always have differences in opinion; however, we must still work together and develop solutions for the many issues affecting our district. I know the gift we have been granted—to call ourselves an American! I believe that it is my responsibility to pass this gift on to the next generation of Americans. I know that everyone in the district plays a key role in the survival and prosperity of the USA and, as your next congressional representative, I pledge to always legislate in the best interest of our families, our communities and OUR district. Please vote for Maureen McArdle Schulman on Tuesday, Nov. 3.