Insurgent Wave in New York Pushes Old Guard Democrats Aside

Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, said that last Tuesday’s elections were a “referendum on black lives” that signaled a political realignment was in progress.

“This was a ‘what side are you on’ moment,” he said.

The early results underscored a national trend in Democratic politics that seems to be playing out in New York, too: Candidates of color are assembling broad winning coalitions that bring together liberal white voters and voters of color. White majority districts can be led by people of color and black candidates if the message is broad, progressive and inclusive, said Sochie Nnaemeka, head of the New York State Working Families Party.

“Voters are hungry for a different type of leadership,” she said.

Nowhere does that appear to be more true than in Mr. Jones’s race in the 17th Congressional District, which includes Rockland County and parts of Westchester County and is majority white and only 10 percent black.

“My story is quintessentially the American dream, and people want to be inspired by their elected officials,” said Mr. Jones, who grew up poor in Rockland County and then went to Stanford University and to Harvard Law School. “When people bring their lived experience with them to policymaking, that process becomes more informed.”

Race and identity politics were not necessarily the only thing driving insurgent campaigns. Most candidates ran on unabashedly left-wing platforms, supporting Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. They hammered their opponents for being absent from their districts.

In Westchester County, a female federal prosecutor, Mimi Rocah, whose campaign was centered on a progressive “Right Side of Justice” agenda, was leading the incumbent district attorney, Anthony Scarpino.

Many challengers had deep ties to their communities: They were teachers, activists, tenant organizers. But race was certainly an underlying factor in many of the candidacies, and it was amplified by the recent civil unrest over police brutality.