New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald Payne Jr. dies, Speaker Johnson announces

CNN —

US Rep. Donald Payne Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, has died, Speaker Mike Johnson announced on Wednesday.

“We are saddened to be informed of the passing today of congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.,” Johnson said in a post on X.

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement on X that he is “deeply saddened by the tragic passing of our friend, and a steadfast champion for the people of New Jersey, Congressman Donald Payne, Jr.”

Payne had been hospitalized earlier this month after suffering “a cardiac episode based on complications from his diabetes,” his office said in a statement at the time.

Payne, who represented New Jersey’s 10th District, had served in Congress since 2012, after winning a special election to succeed his father following his death.

His father, Donald Milford Payne, was the first Black congressman to represent the state and served in the seat from 1989 until his death in 2012.

Donald Payne Jr. was involved with a number of health-related caucuses and helped introduce related legislation in Congress, including serving as a co-chair of the Congressional Colorectal Cancer Caucus, Congressional Men’s Health Caucus and the Congressional Peripheral Artery Disease Caucus.

Payne, who was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has honored members of his district for Black excellence and was involved as a member of the caucus in presenting former President Donald Trump in 2017 with a 130-page policy document on advancing Black families.

“The Congressional Black Caucus has been very clear to President Trump that African-American communities have a lot to lose under his administration,” Payne said in a press release at the time. “And what we’ve done is put in front of him real solutions to help our communities, from reducing gun violence to expanding support services for our children.”

Payne served on a number of congressional committees, and was the ranking member of a subcommittee for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Voting in the New Jersey primary has already begun. Assuming Payne wins the primary – there are no other named candidates on the ballot – the local Democratic parties would be responsible for naming a replacement for the November general election. Gov. Murphy will also need to call a special election to fill the remainder of Payne’s term.

With Payne’s passing and the resignation of Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, Democrats will have 212 members in the House and Republicans 217. The narrow divide gives Johnson just a two-vote margin on party-line votes.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Ethan Cohen and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.

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