Donald Payne, Congressional rep. New Jersey's 10th, which is Hudson, Essex and Union County area has succumbed to colon cancer.
He served since 1989 and was expected to run again this year.
Rep. Donald Payne, the dean of the New Jersey delegation and its first and only black member, died Tuesday at a Livingston hospital from colon cancer, his office said. He was 77 years old.
Payne, a Democrat, had represented a district that includes parts of Newark, the Oranges, Jersey City and Union Township, since 1988, after time as an Essex County freeholder and Newark city councilman. He was chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1995 to 1997.
Less than a month ago, the Newark native said he was being treated for cancer and said he expected to make a full recovery. But last week he was flown to New Jersey and taken to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, where he died.
As Payne’s condition worsened, talk began in New Jersey about his replacement. Newark Councilman Ron Rice Jr. had already begun building a campaign to challenge Payne in November, but he is not the favorite of several Newark power brokers. Others are looking to Newark Council President Donald Payne Jr., son of the late congressman, and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, also of Essex County.
Payne’s seat will remain open until the November election. His successor will likely serve both the remainder of Payne’s term through 2012 — about seven weeks — and the next two-year term, which begins in January 2013. April 2 is the filing deadline for the June primary.
Tributes from around New Jersey and Washington, D.C., came pouring in soon after Payne’s death. Newark Mayor Cory Booker called him “one of Newark’s greatest trailblazing leaders” and a “humble hero.” Gov. Chris Christie said “he was a true gentleman and we considered him a friend,” and said he would order flags on state property lowered to half staff.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver II called him “a shining example of what hard work, determination, and intellect can accomplish in public service.”
President Barack Obama ended one of his rare press conferences with a tribute to Payne and condolences to his family.
Payne was “a wonderful man who did great work both domestically and internationally,” Obama said. “He was a friend of mine. And so my heart goes out to his family and to his colleagues.”
When Payne was elected in 1988, he became New Jersey’s first black congressman. He took a particular interest in foreign policy involving Africa, and at the time of his death he was the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. He sponsored legislation to help relieve famine in Darfur and championed funding for treatment of HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases abroad.
In April 2009, militant Islamist group al-Shabaab fired mortars at Payne’s plane as he was leaving Somalia after a trip to discuss piracy. He wasn’t among the injured and he said he didn’t know of the attack until he arrived in Kenya. He had been warned by the State Department about the danger of the situation.
Payne, who was involved in national literacy efforts, previously worked at Prudential Insurance Co., based in Newark, and as a schoolteacher. He was a president of the national YMCA.
Payne, a Democrat, had been expecting to run for re-election this year.
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10th) will run for re-election and is expected to make a full recovery according to his son, Newark Council President Donald Payne Jr.
Payne Sr. announced Friday he his struggling with colon cancer, but expects to make a full recovery. Payne was first elected to Congress in 1988 and has represented the 10th district ever since. Payne is up for re-election in November.
"He is going to run for re-election," Payne Jr. said by phone. "This is not going to stop his service to the residents of the 10th Congressional District."