Late Rep. Donald Payne Jr. to Win Primary Posthumously, Special Election Looms

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The late New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald Payne Jr. is set to win the primary posthumously in the 10th Congressional District on Tuesday as he’s the sole Democrat on the ballot.

State and party officials are gearing up for a competitive special election to fill Payne’s seat later this summer. Payne, 65, passed away on April 24 due to a “cardiac episode” after a heart attack earlier that month, along with other health issues he had faced in recent years.

Owing to New Jersey’s filing rules, the deadline for the 2024 election has already elapsed, making it impossible for anyone to replace Payne in the regular primary on Tuesday.

Payne served six terms in the House of Representatives, stepping into Congress after the death of his father, former Rep. Donald Payne Sr., New Jersey’s first black representative.

Following Payne’s posthumous victory on Tuesday, the Democratic committee members from the 10th District’s regions in Essex, Union, and Hudson counties will convene to select their nominee for the regular November ballot.

With Payne’s seat now empty in the House, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) had a one-seat majority. This majority will increase to two seats later on Monday after Republican Vince Fong is sworn in as the newest GOP representative in the House, succeeding Kevin McCarthy following a special election.

New Jersey special election on the horizon

In addition to the Nov. 5 regular general election ballot, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) has scheduled a July 16 special primary election and a special general election on Sept. 18 to choose a new member to complete Payne’s term.

The 10th District of New Jersey is among the most Democratic-leaning districts in the nation, with no Democratic nominee receiving less than 75% of the district’s vote in the past two decades. The last Republican elected here was in 1946.

In light of Payne’s death, twelve candidates have initiated campaigns for the special election: 11 Democrats and one Republican, as reported by the New Jersey Monitor.

The list of Democrats includes Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver, former East Orange Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks, Rutgers law professor Eugene Mazo, Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker, Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, Economic Development Authority executive Darryl Godfrey, former congressional candidate John Flora, former Payne staffer Shana Melius, Essex County College professor Sheila Montague, along with Alberta Gordon and Debra Salters.

Mazo, McIver, and Claybrooks all overcame challenges to their appearance on the special election ballot. Claybrooks attempted to remove McIver, while the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, backing McIver, issued its challenge against Claybrooks. Mazo narrowly survived a challenge from the Democratic State Committee, according to the New Jersey Globe.

The challenges against Mazo, McIver, and Claybrooks questioned the validity of the signatures each candidate gathered to meet New Jersey’s ballot qualification. Candidates had to collect 200 signatures to access the ballot, as noted by the news outlet.

With Carmen Bucco being the only Republican to file for the seat, he is likely to be the party’s nominee in the September special election.

Rachel Schilke
Rachel Schilke
Congress Reporter.

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