State Rep. Tony Payton is serving his third term in the state House but he's been at odds with important parts of the city Democratic organization since he first ran for office in 2006, barely beating a write-in candidate backed by Payton's ward leader, Marge Tartaglione. "I never asked her permission to run," Payton said.
Last year, Payton waved a tiny red flag in front of another Democratic bull, by donating $100 to the nascent Congressional campaign of former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, who is trying to defeat U. S. Rep. Bob Brady, the city Democratic chairman. The contribution was so small, Moore was not required to list it on the reports he filed with the Federal Election Commission. "We've never seen eye to eye," Payton says of Brady, "because I'm critical of his lack of action on issues like hunger and job creation, or to flex the muscle of Washington for his district."
So, is Payton savvy, or paranoid, to notice that the new boundaries of Brady's Congressional district make some unusual twists to excise the upstart 30-year-old legislator and make him a constituent of Brady's colleague, U. S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz? "This is clearly a political document," Payton says. "I think he took me out of the district out of fear."
Payton's theory has several holes. First, Congressional redistricting was controlled largely by Republicans, who hold majorities in both the state House and Senate. Second, you don't have to live in a Congressional district to run for the seat. Brady himself lived outside the district when he won it the first time, in 1998, according to spokesman Ken Smukler.
But the new Congressional boundaries do make some weird swerves. Brady's new district includes 24 of the 26 divisions in the 62nd ward, south of Roosevelt Boulevard – every division except the 10th, where Payton lives, and the 20th, home to Timothy Dowling, a city election official who knows many of the city's politicians because he collects their campaign finance reports. Meanwhile the district jumps to the northern side of the Boulevard to grab scattered divisions from the 54th ward.
Smukler, speaking on Brady's behalf, says the Congressman had no idea whether Payton was inside or outside his new district until he heard about it from Payton this week. "He didn't know where Tony Payton lived and did not have it cut out of the district," Smukler said. "Even if he had the clout to do it, he would never do it….Tony Payton's political aspirations are not on his radar screen."