Maureen McArdle-Schulman has never been one to back down from a challenge. “I was always told I couldn’t do this,” she said about her decision to seek the Congressional seat in New York’s District 17. “That’s all you have to do is tell me I can’t do this, and it pushes me in the opposite direction.”
That same attitude helped McArdle-Schulman graduate from the first firefighting class for women of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) in 1982. She went on to work 21 years at Engine 35 in East Harlem before retiring to spend more time with her family, including three grandchildren.
Along with her never-say-never attitude is her courage. The Yorktown resident worked on the scene at the World Trade Center as a first responder after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Speaking to River Journal a few days after the anniversary of the 2001event, McArdle-Schulman’s voice quieted slightly in solemn remembrance, saying, “I don’t think you ever get over it so much as you incorporate it into your life.”
She doesn’t deny her underdog status for the Nov. 3 election, noting that her main opponent receives much more media coverage, and acknowledging that the district has long been known as a Democratic stronghold.
The opponent is Mondaire Jones, a progressive Democrat from Rockland County who defeated a large field of candidates to win his party’s primary, vanquishing prominent contenders like State Senator David Carlucci, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas, and the well-funded, former federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer.
He noted his “story is quintessentially that of the American dream.” Seeking a better life for their family, his grandparents fled Jim Crow-era Virginia for New York, where they helped raise Mondaire, helping his mother, a single parent who worked multiple jobs to support her son.
A FIRST FOR CONGRESS?
Jones is also in line to be one of the first openly gay black men in history to serve in the U.S. Congress. (He may be sharing this distinction with Ritchie Torres, a gay Afro-Latino man who won his primary race in New York’s 15th Congressional District.)
“It is not lost on me how impactful that will be and how impactful my candidacy already has been for people throughout the district and throughout the whole country who need inspiration, like I needed inspiration when I was growing up,” Jones said when asked what the moment would mean for him should he win the seat.
While McArdle-Schulman and Jones differ greatly in ideologies, both spoke of the importance of working with political opponents should they be victorious. They said they would be willing to work with anyone who shared common ground on important issues.
They won’t be the only names on the ballot come Nov. 4, though. Two of McArdle-Schulman’s former rivals for the Republican nomination are running as third-party candidates –Yehudis Gottesfeld (Conservative Party) and Joshua Eisen (ECL Party), while Michael Parietti is representing himself as a moderate independent for the Serve America Movement Party.
Jon Jackson is a writer and editor who hails from Brooklyn.
‘[My] story is quintessentially that of the American Dream.’ Mondaire Jones
‘I don’t think you ever get over it,’ says Maureen McArdle-Schulman about her being a 9/11 first responder as an NYC firefighter.