Last week, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris announced her official endorsement of Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Jackie Gordon for the 2ndCongressional District which includes southwestern Suffolk County and a small portion of southeastern Nassau County on the South Shore of Long Island, NY. As women of color, Harris and Gordon both share similar stories of being first-time candidates who have a strong commitment to serving others.
Gordon, 55, is running to replace outspoken Trump supporter Congressman Peter King, who is currently serving his 14th term. Back in November 2019, King announced his retirement rather than face Gordon in the next election. With the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Gordan has been added to their highly competitive Red to Blue program earlier this year. The DCCC has invested resources and guidance to her campaign with the hope of retaining Democratic control of the U.S. House of Representatives. They are all too aware how important King’s seat is after 28 years of being Republican held. Gordon’s participation in the Red to Blue program is the turbo boost she’ll need to win one of the most competitive races in the country and she’ll need it if Democrats want to flip this cycle.
Gordon is no stranger to the political world and has shown that her commitment to service has always driven her to do more. In 2007, she became the first Black woman to sit on the Town Council in Babylon, NY. During her tenure, Gordon used her background as an Army combat veteran, and educator to help quickly integrate additional veteran services into the community.
Then as Chair of the Veterans Advisory Council, Gordon directed resources to veterans and military families and helped raise nearly $1 million for the Wounded Warriors Project. Plus, she was able to merge two of her passions when she initiated a program for high school seniors who were going off to serve their country and held ceremonies last June to recognize them.
Known for her astute nature mixed with her compassion and results driven focus, Gordon is ready to take the next step of her career.
“I decided to run for Congress for the same reason I joined the Army. I joined the Army because of this commercial that said, 'We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.' That was it for me. That's what drives me — going the extra mile, making sure things get done, and serving others. I didn't feel like that's what was happening in government, so I jumped in the race," she said to Refinery 29.
In theory, it might seem odd that the top senator for the state of California (and some say a serious contender for the role of Vice President under a Joe Biden presidency) would be interested in a race for Congress in New York. But Harris sees something in Gordon that’s familiar and believes enough in her to stand by her campaign.
“We need Jackie’s voice in Congress. As a combat veteran, immigrant, educator, and public servant, Jackie understands the complexities of the issues facing working- and middle-class families today,” said Harris in her endorsement tweeted out last week. “Just as she has already served her country and her community, I know that Jackie will be a powerful advocate for Long Island in Congress, and I am proud to endorse her.”
With this much excitement around one candidate, we had to do a deeper dive to find out what Gordon is really all about. Here are five things you need to know about the woman who is grabbing a lot of attention in the Democratic Party with a future that could see her making significant changes in politics.
The Caribbean Is Her Place of Origin
Gordon understands the complexities of immigration, because she is an immigrant herself. Born in Jamaica, Gordon came to the United States with her family to seek the American dream. She was just seven years old when she transferred from the warmth of the Caribbean to the very real streets of Hollis, Queens. Gordon eventually moved to Long Island where she raised two children and became steeped in community activism while working as an educator. She credits her commitment, drive and tenacity to lessons imparted by her mother.
Education Is In Her Blood
Gordon has wanted to teach her entire life and earned her undergraduate degree from Hunter College, participating in their “Training Tomorrow’s Teachers” program. She worked in New York City and Long Island public schools for 32 years as a teacher and guidance counselor, and she is a proud member of the New York State United Teachers union. She says that young people are her greatest inspiration because “their potential is boundless.”
Serving Her Country Is Her Foundation
Gordon enlisted in the Army when she was 20 years old because she wanted to serve the country that gave her so many opportunities. Being in the United States provided Gordon with the opportunity to be the first person in her family to go to college and she felt it was her duty to give a little back of what she had received. Gordon’s love for this country is unapparelled. She served 29 years in the Army Reserve as a Military Police Officer and deployed four times overseas during Operation Desert Storm, after 9/11, as a battle captain in Baghdad, and as Commander of the 310th Military Police Battalion in Afghanistan in 2012. She retired from the Army Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2014. Today, her daughter Kerrianne is a Captain in the U.S. Air Force.
Public Service Is Her Passion
Gordon first got involved in community service on Long Island as a parent joining the PTA. This led to time volunteering with a local parent group to raise funds for school programs and leading her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. In 2006, she became the first Black woman to be elected to the Babylon Town Board. As a councilwoman, Jackie ran the Ujima Internship Program, a six-week job training and mentorship experience for students of color interested in local government and community development. She headed the Veteran’s Advisory Council and was responsible for raising $1 million for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Yoga Is Her Path To Zen
Gordon became a certified yoga instructor in 2017 while working as a high school guidance counselor because she understood the benefits of practicing mindfulness to decrease disciplinary issues among students. Today, she continues to lead virtual yoga practices via Zoom to her constituents to promote health and wellness for her district during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As we continue to shelter at home, it’s important to continue to prioritize our health and wellness,” Gordon said.