Knives Out in New York: Squad-Backed Democrat Launches House Campaign Against Gretchen Whitmer’s Sister

Mondaire Jones, Liz Whitmer Gereghty will square off in swing seat primary

Gretchen Whitmer, Liz Whitmer Gereghty (Twitter)
July 5, 2023

Liberal former congressman Mondaire Jones is running for a swing House seat in New York, a move that sets up a brutal primary fight against Michigan Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer's sister, who is also running for the seat.

Jones, a longtime ally of the left-wing "Squad" who represented New York's 17th Congressional District from 2021 to 2023, is again running to represent the district, he announced Wednesday. Before Jones advances to the general election, however, he will need to defeat Whitmer's sister, Liz Whitmer Gereghty, a school board member who launched her bid for the seat in May.

The matchup could become one of the nastier primary fights in the country, with Jones's allies already lashing out at Gereghty. "I didn't even know her sister lived in the district," liberal congressman Jamaal Bowman, a "Squad" member who represents a nearby district in New York, told Politico in April. "And I don't know many people who know her." While Gereghty's supporters countered by saying the Democrat has "lived in the area for two decades," Gereghty has courted support from Michigan's congressional delegation and hired a campaign manager who most recently worked in the Great Lakes State.

Jones is known for his progressive politics, a reputation that could hurt him in a district that became more conservative following the 2020 redistricting process. Jones, in the summer of 2020, supported the movement to defund police, writing in a Teen Vogue op-ed that America must "dismantle white supremacy in all aspects of our society, and that means moving funding away from police departments." Jones in the op-ed also called to "abolish cash bail," and the Democrat has expressed support for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. In addition to Bowman, Jones during his congressional career has received endorsements from fellow "Squad" members Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.).

Gereghty, meanwhile, serves on the board of the Katonah-Lewisboro School District, which sits roughly 50 miles north of Manhattan. Her campaign site condemns "extremist Republicans" for "banning books," "robbing women of their reproductive rights," and "fearmongering about crime." Gereghty in the first 10 weeks of her campaign raised more than $400,000, and she's already received endorsements from EMILY's List and other liberal outside groups.

Jones joined Congress in January 2021 after he defeated Republican nominee Maureen McArdle Schulman by 24 points. But redistricting put him in the same district as then-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Sean Patrick Maloney, forcing Jones to leave the 17th District and run in the 10th District instead. Jones finished third in the primary for his new district, while Maloney lost to Republican challenger Mike Lawler in November 2022, meaning both incumbents were out of power come January 2023.

Jones has since expressed regret that he opted not to challenge Maloney, and his entrance into the race Wednesday shows he is not afraid of a contentious primary battle this time around. Still, Gereghty is not backing down—the Whitmer sister's campaign on Wednesday criticized Jones for moving districts "to chase a congressional seat." "The most important thing right now is defeating Mike Lawler," the campaign told News 12 Westchester, "and Liz Whitmer Gereghty is the best candidate to do it."