New Jersey: Race to Succeed Donald Payne Comes Into Focus

As constituents of the 10th district are paying their final respects to the late Rep. Donald Payne, New Jersey Democrats are beginning to look ahead to the future of his Congressional seat. Payne’s son, Newark Council President Donald Payne Jr., has been the subject of discussion when it comes to succeeding his father in Congress. Sources and reports conflict over whether he is interested in the seat. Some say he has his eye on running for Newark mayor in 2014 if Mayor Cory Booker opts to not seek re-election. State Speaker Sheila Oliver is also in the mix. There is concern, though, that if she were to leave the state Legislature, a shift in the balance of power between North and South New Jersey would not favor Essex County. Newark Councilman Ron Rice was planning on challenging the late Congressman in the primary. While it may be an advantage to have already begun to build a campaign, Rice is viewed as something of a maverick to the party. In New Jersey, the county party machine is crucial to getting elected. The New Jersey secretary of state’s office has not made any announcements about the possibility of a special election to fill Payne’s seat. While there is a provision in the state constitution allowing for a special election, New Jersey tradition has dictated that the special election is held in conjunction with the state’s scheduled primary and general elections. A candidate’s name appears twice on the ballot, once for the special election and again in the contest for a full term. The winner of the Democratic primary will almost certainly be the winner of the general election.