By Miya Jones
Congressional candidate Jacqueline Gordon announced her run for Congress almost a year ago against 28-year incumbent Peter King. A lot has changed since then.
King retired, coronavirus infected every part of our lives and Gordon received a glowing recommendation from former presidential candidate Kamala Harris. All of these factors fueled Gordon further in her race to represent district NY-02 and switch things up after being dissatisfied with the way business was being handled by King.
When she moved to Copiague in 2000, Steve Israel was the congressman, and looking up to him as a mentor, Gordon aims to take a similar approach by always having a presence and being involved in her community. At the same time, she brings a unique yet relatable perspective to the table due to her military background and experiences as a Black woman, mother and educator.
In our exclusive interview with Gordon, she talked about her plans for the district amidst the coronavirus, why she’s the ideal candidate, her love for the youth and her passion for people in general.
What gave you the final push to run for Congress?
I was frustrated with the dysfunction, chaos and partisanship that I saw in Washington. The last straw was when I saw our representative voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act over and over again, threatening constituents with preexisting conditions. I knew I could do better because I have done better, serving my community as a Babylon Town Councilwoman, educator and member of our Armed Forces. I’m running for Congress for the same reason I joined the Army when I was 20-years-old. I saw a commercial that said “We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day,” and I was hooked. I know hard work, and I will work harder for the people of NY-02.
How will you navigate the island during these crazy times if you win? Coronavirus is said to have a lasting impact.
We’re already adjusting as a campaign, and our primary focus is providing information and resources to the people of NY-02. In the Army, we receive training to formulate a plan, work together to execute a mission and remain adaptable to a rapidly changing environment. This is exactly what I will do as a member of Congress to tackle any challenge that comes our way, coronavirus or otherwise. This pandemic has also put a spotlight on several policy issues that demand attention. We have to address disparities in access to health care, educational opportunity and economic security.
Who inspires you?
Young people are my greatest inspiration—their creativity, brilliance, curiosity, courage, energy; the adjectives go on and on. Since I was knee-high to a boll weevil, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I was a public-school educator for 32 years. I’ve always aspired to be the light at the end of my students’ tunnel. I have so much faith in our young people, and I’m running for Congress to keep fighting for their futures.
What drew you to the youth program Ujima?
I first got involved with the Ujima internship program when Janice Tinsley-James, the founder, was leaving the town board. Janice was looking for someone to take over the program, and I jumped at the opportunity to work with young people. I am so proud of how Ujima has grown over the years and the incredible things that its alumni have gone on to do. Ujima interns have gone on to join the Peace Corps, become Congressional pages, lawyers and doctors. It all starts somewhere!
Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of my 29 years serving in the Army Reserve. I had so many experiences in the military that pushed me to grow and reach beyond all expectations—deploying abroad four times, commanding a battalion in Afghanistan and mentoring dozens of young soldiers as a Lieutenant Colonel. It was my career in the Army that solidified many of my core values including integrity, honesty, selfless service, loyalty and trust.
How does it feel to have your daughter in the U.S. Air Force being that you served in the U.S. military? Did you inspire her?
I am so proud of Kerrianne, and I like to think that I inspired her! I joined the Army Reserve before my children were born, so they grew up around the military. They would even come with me when I met with my unit on Tuesday nights because I didn’t have childcare, so I think it was natural for Kerrianne to join the Air Force. She started in ROTC at CUNY City College, and now she is a Captain serving at a NATO base in Germany.
How would you describe yourself as a mother?
I have always been a very hands-on mother. I always wanted Kerrianne and Augustus to know that they could depend on me. My children always had a voice with me; they knew that they would be heard and that their opinion mattered.
As a Black woman, how do you feel this will affect your race? Will it at all?
I’m running to represent everyone; I served my country in the Army for my entire adult life, and I never once questioned anyone’s race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Representation matters, and it’s so important that people who look like me run for office so that Congress reflects the rich diversity of our country. I hope that I can serve as a role model for young Black women in my community, but I also know that many residents of NY-02 can relate to me as a mom, a veteran, an educator and an immigrant. People are looking for a representative who lives like them and shares their values.
What is one thing you’ve never said in an interview or that people do not know about you?
You might have guessed from my military career, but many people do not realize that I have lived in seven different countries!