Wellington resident and attorney Susan Kufdakis Rivera is running as a Republican for state representative in District 86, challenging two-term Democratic incumbent Matt Willhite in November’s general election.
District 86 covers all of Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and Loxahatchee Groves, as well as some eastern areas in central Palm Beach County. The district tends to lean Democratic, with Willhite garnering nearly 60 percent of the vote in his last election.
Rivera, 34, has lived in Wellington for five years and works as an immigration attorney in West Palm Beach. She said she has made it her life’s mission to advocate for others and enjoys serving the community in her free time, especially through the Junior League.
“I was motivated to run on reform, although in recent years, even weeks, I noticed there had been little progress done in those areas,” she told the Town-Crier. “When I started taking it to people in my local political party, they were like, ‘Well, we understand there’s nothing being done, but no one’s running against him either.”
As a new candidate who has not run for public office before, Rivera realizes that she faces a tough fight in the Democratic leaning district against Willhite, who served as a Wellington councilman for eight years before being elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2016.
“At minimum, it will get people aware that we still need work, and we need to focus on the state and local communities and politics, as well and the issues that we face every day,” she said. “I understand that there is a big division between Republicans and Democrats, but I also understand that the greatest minds can work together [although] they think completely differently. Working together brings the greatest results.”
Rivera said canvassing voters has been difficult with social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she has been using the internet and social media to reach people. She has a web site at www.susanforfl.com and is on Facebook @SusanforFL86, Instagram @susan.forfl86 and Twitter @SusanForFL86.
“I’m in it, and I’d like to get to work,” she said. “But I always tell myself, positive thinking. With hard work, I can get to Tallahassee, so win or lose, it’s not over, because I definitely want to be present, assuring that there is progress, and we’re not forgetting about local politics, because everyone is focused on national. We want a common ground where we all can meet and assure that people are safe, and progress is being made, our economy is sound, and our education is up to date. These are things we need to be addressing day to day.”
Rivera earned her law degree from Nova Southeastern University. She lives with her parents, who moved to Florida five years ago. Her father is a doctor currently working at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach after working at other VA hospitals in the Midwest. She was already attending Nova Southeastern when her parents followed her to Florida. “I’m very close to my family,” she said, noting that her father is Greek, while her mother is Puerto Rican.