By Alexander Rivero, Staff Writer
Long Valley native John Henry Isemann, 27—who left his job on Wall Street to head up a humanitarian effort in Guatemala City—will be running on the Republican ticket for New Jersey’s 7th congressional district. Isemann looks to challenge Rep. Tom Malinowski (D—Ringoes) in a race that could very well determine which of the two major political parties controls the U.S. House of Representatives at the halfway mark of Joe Biden’s presidency.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill alum, who finished with a degree in political science, points to the need, as he says, “for a generational change in Congress, and a categorial shift in the character of our leaders.”
Bright-eyed, measured, and intelligent, Isemann points to the tendency of candidates to only view the short-term requirements necessary to secure and hold onto power, without much thought to what the country will look like long after they have left office.
The son of a school nurse and a financial advisor turned Mendham Hills pastor, Isemann’s resume is interesting enough to warrant a peek. He worked the equity derivatives desk at UBS for three years and concluded he did not “want the job forever” before heading off to Columbia Records for two years. Here, he worked in the business and legal affairs branch of the company, where he often collaborated with teams of artists and overseers producing Grammy-winning music.
“Early on after college”, Isemann says, “I learned how to work, especially at UBS. I learned just what it took to function at that level—the 6 a.m. meetings, the constant call to come up with ideas on the fly.”
It was after his time at Columbia Records that he decided he wanted to return to charity work in Guatemala—Zone 3 of Guatemala City precisely—one of the poorest places in all of Latin America. Isemann first visited Guatemala City at the age of thirteen with fellow Morris County residents looking to make a difference in a place that looked like the opposite of where they were from. While at Chapel Hill, he went back to Guatemala City for a whole summer to volunteer. Asked what his greatest memory of Guatemala is, he does not skip a beat: “No question, the sheer capability of a community working in unison to achieve a common purpose.”
Isemann says he came up with the idea to run throughout the course of a ten-year stint where he traveled much of the country, coast to coast, up and down, including a stint living in New York City’s 14th district, which elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He picked up on many lessons and trends amongst the voting public in the U.S., most notably the evident distancing of many from their civic duty to stay informed and keep their leaders accountable.
“It’s clear that a lot of people have become more and more apathetic to the political process,” Isemann says, noting the fact that the candidates with the biggest spotlight often had weak connections at best to the people they were supposed to be representing. It seemed like an inevitability to have these kinds of professional bureaucrats win elections over and over again. But the tides, Isemann believes, are changing.
“The candidates that are driving the conversation more and more today are not from a political dynasty. They’re from grassroots efforts,” he says.
Isemann says that some of the first things he would do if elected include proposing new term limits at the congressional level that would cap candidates at two-year terms, and that this proposal would fall under the greater umbrella of ethics reform. The idea, he says, “is to stop people from being able to build careers out of government service, so they can’t jump from Congress right into lobbying.”
Also on the list for Isemann is the limiting of candidates to engage in stock trading. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Isemann points out, local representatives, particularly Malinowski himself, saw their fortunes rise by millions of dollars “on undisclosed healthcare trades during the pandemic,” Isemann says. The representatives, he adds, bet against the very people they were supposed to be representing.
In his bid for election to the state’s 7th district, Isemann will have to get past six other candidates in the Republican primary: former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official Rik Mehta, Kevin Dorlon of Long Valley, John P. Flora, District 23 Assemblyman Erik Peterson, Philip Rizzo, and Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield).
Isemann—who joins Robert Healy, 38, of Burlington County and former Marine combat veteran Nick DeGregorio, 36, of Bergen County as yet another Republican under 40 years of age to announce congressional runs in New Jersey—is focused on his message, which is that the people of New Jersey can, in fact, change the political circumstances of their state and country, but they “have to stop doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome—looking to the same tried and tired political dynasties and lobbyists—career politicians who have been climbing the ladders in Trenton and Washington while leaving New Jersey on the losing end.”
Some of Isemann’s biggest historical role models are Theodore Roosevelt and John Adams, Roosevelt for fitting the role of what a conservative statesman should be—a man of both great thought and great action—and Adams for being one of the most “forward thinking of the founding fathers.”
The best thing people can do to help him is, Isemann says, to volunteer. To reach out to the Isemann team, visit the campaign’s official website: www.johnisemann.com.