Payne overwhelmingly wins renomination in 10th district Democratic primary

Challenge from Oakley failed to catch on among N.J. progressives

Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

The New Jersey Globe projects that Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-Newark) has won the Democratic primary in the 10th congressional district, defeating challenger Imani Oakley. As of 10:53 p.m., Payne had 83% of the vote to Oakley’s 11%, with minor candidate Akil Khalfani in third at 5%.

Payne, the son and successor of former Rep. Donald Payne Sr. (D-Newark), skated by for years as an under-the-radar representative with no real opposition from either party. But after an embarrassing incident last summer in which he attended a Zoom congressional hearing in his underwear, the congressman changed course.

His re-election campaign, long in sleep mode, kicked into full gear, with the congressman raising more money than he ever had in previous cycles (and collecting more petition signatures than any other candidate in the state). He also eagerly sought endorsements from key state politicians as well as national progressive figures like House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

Oakley, a former staffer for various politicians and groups, tried to harness anti-establishment energy for her campaign the way that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and others have done. That ended up being hard to do against the already-liberal Payne, however, and many leading New Jersey progressives like Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange) and the New Jersey Working Families Party endorsed Payne.

In the Republican primary, 2016 candidate David Pinckney, who had the Republican county lines, beat Garth Stewart. Since the Newark-based 10th district is the state’s most Democratic district, Payne is all but certain to defeat Pinckney come November.

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