In many ways, Congressman Donald Payne was a man that many people will not forget. Apart from his prodigious career as a politician and a public servant, Donald Payne’s efforts in health care, education and human rights remain legacy to generations to come. As he died earlier this week, Congressman Donald Payne’s death raised the issue of succession. Rest assured, the replacement will have some pretty big shoes to step in.
On Tuesday, Congressman Donald Payne passed away at a hospital in Livingston after his health condition deteriorated and finally capitulated in front of the colon cancer. Diagnosed with cancer only a month ago, Payne originally told the media the treatment is expected to provide a successful recovery. However, earlier this month Payne was committed to St. Barnabas Medical Center where he eventually passed away.
The issue of succession started immediately as Payne’s health condition deteriorated visibly. The first names said to be taken into account as potential successors are Newark Councilman Ron Rice Jr., Newark Council President Donald Payne Jr. and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver of Essex County. However, it seems that Donald Payne Jr. and Sheila Oliver have the best odds at succeeding the congressman.
Although Newark Councilman Ron Rice Jr. has already started his campaign, Donald Payne’s seat in the Congress will remain unoccupied until the November election.
Regardless who the successor will be, it goes without saying he or she will have to rise to huge expectations. Democrat Donald Payne has been a representative of the Newark district since 1988 and at one point he also had a mandate as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. With his 1988 successful election, Donald Payne made the history books in becoming the first black congressman of New Jersey.
The news about Donald Payne’s death reached even the White House, as president Barack Obama ordered the flags to be lowered in his honor. Obama called Payne “a wonderful man who did great work both domestically and internationally”. “He was a friend of mine” added the president and gave his regards to family and colleagues.
Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy stated that Donald Payne was “ a passionate advocate for his constituents, but he was also always a gentleman of the first order, which is something that becomes rarer and rarer as time goes on”.