New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne Jr. dies at 65

Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., has died at age 65 after several weeks in the hospital following “a physical accident at his home on April 6,” his office confirmed in a statement Wednesday.

“During his treatment for this health issue, he faced medical complications due to diabetes and high blood pressure that led to subsequent cardiorespiratory arrest,” the statement said. “Despite the dedicated efforts of the medical staff to treat him and improve his health, they were unable to prevent his passing unfortunately.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement that he and his wife were “deeply saddened.”

“With his signature bowtie, big heart, and tenacious spirit, Donald embodied the very best of public service,” Murphy said. “As a former union worker and toll collector, he deeply understood the struggles our working families face, and he fought valiantly to serve their needs, every single day.”

He continued, “Donald’s love will live on in the homes of his neighbors in Newark, who now have access to safe drinking water, and in the good-paying jobs he helped create for his brothers and sisters in labor.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., reacted to the news on X, calling Payne “a good friend, highly effective public servant and compassionate leader. My prayers and support are with the Payne family and his loved ones during this difficult time. May he forever Rest in Peace.”

With Payne’s death and the recent resignation of Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., there are now 217 Republicans and 212 Democrats in the House.

Donald Payne in Washington on June 6. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images file

Payne experienced a “cardiac episode” early this month after complications linked to his diabetes, his office said last week, after the New Jersey Globe reported that he remained unconscious at the time. Earlier in the month, Payne’s office said he was improving and had a “good” prognosis and an expectation of a “full recovery.”

He had served in Congress since November 2012, representing New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District, which covers parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties. Payne succeeded his father, Rep. Donald M. Payne, who also died in office.

Payne Jr. was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and served on the House Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. He last voted in late March.

New Jersey law says the governor can schedule a special primary and a special general election in the event of a House vacancy. The special primary election must be held 70 to 76 days after the governor’s proclamation, and the special general election must be held 64 to 70 days after the primary.

It appears that the new vacancy is too late for a special election to coincide with the state’s June 4 primary, in which Payne was running unopposed.

The state Elections Department did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

The filing deadline for congressional races has also passed.

Payne’s seat is expected to remain in Democratic hands. President Joe Biden won the 10th District, which includes Newark, by 62 percentage points in 2020, according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections.

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