Donald Payne Jr. Hopes To Take His Late Father’s Congressional Seat

After the death of his father, Donald Payne Jr. decided to run for his congressional seat in the 10th district. While he said “it’s probably the most difficult thing that I’ve ever embarked upon in my life,” he’s determined to run a successful campaign. He sat down with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss the campaign and his views.

Payne said he knows the late congressman the best. “I have grown up with him and beside him, and understand the values and the effort that he put in serving this district,” he said. “I understand that the work the congressman does needs to continue and I really feel that I understand it best.”

His first order of business would be to tackle the issue of jobs. “We have a situation in the 10th congressional district where a lot of our communities are struggling with high unemployment rates, higher than the national average,” Payne said. “So that would be the thing that I would look for to go to Washington, to try to help President Obama continue to put the country in the right direction in terms of economic growth and job opportunities for our residents.”

Payne said he is a strong supporter of Obama, but he wasn’t prepared to say he supports same-sex marriage, as Obama announced Wednesday. “We’re looking at it,” Payne said. “As I said I’ve been a supporter of equal rights for all people and I don’t see where that would be much of a problem moving forward.”

Payne said the greatest challenge in becoming a congressman for him would be getting up to speed on national security issues with Homeland Security.

Endorsements in the primary race have been split with Payne receiving county support in Essex County and Nia Gill getting that support in Hudson County. Payne has gotten some high profile endorsements from Hudson County mayors, which has led some to believe behind-the-scenes deals were made. Payne disputes that. “No deals were made as far as I know,” he said. “I’m not part of any deals.”

To explain the endorsements by some in Hudson County, Payne said his relationship with his father likely helped. “I think that goes back to the work that congressman Payne had done in the past knowing that I have his values and concern for the district,” he said. “That goes a long way in opening the door for me to get my ideas out and gain support just like anyone else.”

Payne said he’s been very successful in garnering financial support. “It’s quite a change on the federal level to do that, but I am doing everything I need to do to be successful in this race.”