The path to oust Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark) in next week’s Democratic primary, which has always been remote at best, became even less likely on Thursday when House Majority Whip James Clyburn came to New Jersey’s 10th district to stump for the incumbent.
Clyburn is one of the most influential Black political leaders in the U.S. and his visit to Payne’s district one day before early voting opened, sends a strong message to voters that the Congressional Black Caucus wants Payne to return to Washington next year.
“Congressman Payne always puts his constituents ahead of himself, and that’s why I wanted to be here today to support him,” Clyburn said at a rally held at Union Chapel AME Church in Newark. Donald Payne has led the fight on capping the cost of insulin at $35 per month and to make healthcare more accessible and more affordable for all Americans. He’s not flashy, but he knows his constituents.”
In one of the nation’s most heavily-Democratic districts, Payne faces a primary challenge from Imani Oakley, who has held short-term stints as a staffer. All of Oakley’s previous employers – U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange), and New Jersey Working Families – have endorsed Payne.
Clyburn told 10th disrtict voters that they should be proud of Payne’s record in Congress.
You don’t have to ever ask him where he stands — just watch the way he votes, listen to what he says and watch the way he walks,” he said.
And Clyburn also paid tribute to Payne’s father, who held the House seat for 23 years before he lost his battle with colon cancer in 2012.
“I mean it when I call Donald Payne my good friend,” Clyburn said. “Long before he came to Congress, his father Donald Payne, Sr., helped to make me who and what I am today.”
Joining Clyburn at the rally: Democratic State Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr.; State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union); NJEA president and Montclair mayor Sean Spiller; New Jersey Working Families state director Sue Altman; CWA political director Christian Estevez; Newark Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica McIver; Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese; and members of 32BJ SEIU.
Also in attendance was South Ward Democratic Municipal Chairman Patrick Council, who Payne is backing for a city council seat in the June 14 municipal runoff election.
Akhil Khalfani, a sociology professor at Essex County College, is also challenging Payne.