The 29th District covers Belleville and part of Newark in Essex County.
It’s a district that heavily favors Democrats: Only 6 percent of district voters are registered as Republicans, while 52 percent are Democrats and most of the rest are unaffiliated.
The incumbent Democrats are facing a challenge. Assemblywomen Shanique Speight and Eliana Pintor Marin, who works in the Essex County Clerk’s Office, are both from Newark. Opposing them are Steve José Poveda of Belleville and Awais Qazi of Newark.
The Republican ticket features Jeannette Veras, a Newark woman who has run unsuccessfully in the last two elections, and John Anello of Belleville.
CANDIDATES IN CONTESTED PRIMARY
NJ Spotlight asked all candidates in contested races to fill out a brief survey about themselves and why they are running. These are the responses we received from 29th District candidates.
STEVE JOSÉ POVEDA: DEMOCRAT
Hometown: Born and raised in Newark, now live in Belleville
Occupation: Medical assistant
Education: Cornell University, BS in Government
Why are you running for the Assembly? I am running because I believe elected officials should have to answer to their constituents regularly. Years of uncontested primaries have left our district sorely missing the outreach necessary to foster a dialogue with residents. This often means our elected officials do not vote the ways we want them to. A challenge to the political machine that handpicks their nominees will hold our Assembly members accountable for their positions such as failing to support a millionaire’s tax and supporting a corrupt corporate tax subsidy program.
What are your three top priorities if elected?
What makes you the best candidate? I am a candidate who places a premium on wisdom, not experience. The working families of New Jersey elected a Democratic governor and a Democratic Legislature with the expectation that they’d lead on popular Democratic issues. When a millionaire’s tax passes five times under Gov. Christie but cannot reach Gov. Murphy’s desk with his party holding a legislative majority, it begs serious questions about those we elect. Experience teaches you how to play the Trenton game — to embarrass and score political points. Wisdom tells you the game is not helping working-class residents across the district and it needs to stop.
AWAIS QAZI: DEMOCRAT
Occupation: Account specialist at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Financial Services Company
Family: Unmarried, no children
Education: Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, specializing in finance, from the New Jersey Institute of Technology
Email/phone: firstname.lastname@example.org, 862-301-0756
Why are you running for the Assembly? I am running for office because I oppose the public positions held by Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin. Assemblywoman Pintor Marin was reluctant in her support of raising the minimum wage to $15. Her position was that such a move would cause businesses to flee New Jersey.
Regarding the current budget and the millionaire’s tax, Assemblywoman Pintor Marin said she would not support an increase in taxes unless there was a dire need to do so. New Jersey has not fully funded its school funding formula and its pension obligations. Our infrastructure is crumbling. We do not even have access to clean water in the city of Newark (referring to the Newark lead water crisis). There is clearly a dire need to ensure that the wealthiest people in New Jersey pay their fair share in taxes.
Lastly, Assemblywoman Pintor Marin has been one of the most vocal supporters of the NJ Economic Development Authority. I firmly believe that the EDA needs to be dismantled and replaced with new programs that invest in our communities. Trickle-down economics is known to be a failure. We need to look into ways in which we can create a trickle-up economy. What that means to me is that we should refurbish abandoned properties and turn them into affordable housing units and community centers. We should have grant programs that provide nonprofits with the funding to provide residents with free therapy, addiction counseling, career advisement, and more. We need to make sure that we are taking care of everyone.
In addition to that, I believe we need to work from the ground up and create grant programs that allow for people of color to create new businesses that create local jobs. We should be investing in home-grown small- and medium-size businesses rather than simply providing exorbitant subsidies to companies that do not need it and that make minimal investments in our community.
In President Obama’s farewell address, he said “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself.” I have taken that lesson to heart in running to oppose Assemblywoman Pintor Marin. I hope to abolish the EDA, replace it with a Community Development Authority, and secure state funding to clean our water supply.
In addition to that, I hope to put pressure on the Essex County Democratic establishment to end our ICE contract. I hope to secure more funding for public schools while putting a moratorium on charter schools.
What are your three top priorities if elected?
What makes you the best candidate? I am now, and will always be, an activist first. My goal is to work closely with the community, understand the issues that are directly affecting the people I am elected to represent, and to produce solutions that address their concerns with their help. I believe that politics, and the entire process of creating legislation, should be transparent and should involve direct input from the constituency. For far too long, legislation has been written behind closed doors, disproportionately benefiting the wealthiest people due to the influence of money in politics. We have sworn off any donations that aim to influence our politics. Our plan is to re-imagine what it means to be an elected official.
When elected, I will continue to attend meetings of the Newark Water Coalition and I will help to bring more attention to that cause and any similar causes through organizing and activism. I will always speak truth to power and never hold back from criticizing programs that harm my constituency or that do not reflect the best interests of working people across New Jersey.
I will be the most transparent Assemblyman. I will be the most outspoken Assemblyman. And I will make it clear that we need a political revolution in New Jersey to hold our current elected officials accountable and make it clear that if they do not support the interests of working people, they will be challenged in a primary and voted out of office. My opponents do not seem to be taking any bold and courageous stances, so it is time for a change in leadership.
SHANIQUE SPEIGHT did not respond to the survey request.
ELIANA PINTOR MARIN did not respond to the survey request.