Ana Isabel Rivera became interested in politics as a child when she accompanied her father, a plumber, to the home of Newark civil rights leader Amiri Baraka.
Now the 29-year-old mother of two is running for Congress as a Republican seeking to oust Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark) in New Jersey’s 10th district, of the most Democratic congressional districts in the nation.
“I am running as a Republican and I’m trying to turn New Jersey red,” said Rivera, who filed papers to run with the Federal Election Commission on Friday. “Some people forget what it means to be an American. The people who are in Congress today are inadequate.”
A plumber’s apprentice, Rivera lives in Newark’s North Ward where her congressman is Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York). But considering the uncertainties of House districts next year, she wants to take on Payne.
“I know Donald Payne, Jr. is a goliath, but it’s time for a change.
There is no requirement that a candidate for Congress live in their own district.
New Jersey’s 10th district is among the most Democratic in the nation. Joe Biden carried the 10th by an 83%-16% margin in 2020. Just 16 districts in the U.S. gave Biden a higher percentage against Republican Donald Trump.
In hi 2022 re-election campaign, Payne won 88% of the vote against Republican Jennifer Zinone.
The 10th district seat has been in Republican hands since 1948, when 39-year-old Newark attorney Peter W. Rodino flipped an open seat.
Rodino, a World War II veteran, had lost a race for State Assembly in 1940 and won 46% against Rep. Fred Hartley (R-Kearny) in 1946. But when Hartley, the sponsor of the Taft-Hartley Act, decided not to seek an 11th term in 1948, Rodino defeated former Assemblyman Anthony Giuliano (D-Newark) by a 51%-46% margin to take the seat.
Payne is just the fourth person to represent the 10th district in Congress since Hartley first won on a ticket with Herbert Hoover in 1928. Rodino served in the House for 40 years and was succeeded by Payne’s father, Donald M. Payne, Sr. (D-Newark).
The boundaries of Payne’s district won’t be clear for another four months. U.S. Census Bureau data released on August 12 shows that the 10th district is overpopulated and Payne will need to shed about 42,000 people when new congressional districts are drawn. Population growth in Jersey City – which is partly in the 10th, and to a lesser extent Newark, is driving the changes.