[Editor's note: This story originally published at 11:13 p.m. Tuesday. It has since been updated.]
A second generation of the Payne family has taken a huge step towards becoming the representative from New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District.
Donald Payne Jr., son of the late Rep. Donald Payne, has won the nomination to run as the Democratic Party candidate in November’s general election, earning 35,011 votes, according to preliminary results compiled by election officials in Essex, Hudson and Union counties for today’s primary.
Payne’s commanding victory was evident even with just a small percentage of districts reporting. Shortly before his win became official he addressed supporters at his cramped Bergen Street campaign headquarters before heading for a victory celebration at the Robert Treat Hotel in downtown Newark.
“We are going to move on to victory in November, but let me just say this is a defining moment. Never did i think that I would be standing here at such an early age, but God’s will be done,” said Payne, as he stood on a chair in order to be heard and was surrounded by his wife Beatrice and their young triplets.
Payne also paid homage to his father while defining his own stance.
“I’ve said I followed a legacy and I’m not backing away from that, because you look at that legacy I’m talking about, you have anybody question that, you can’t because what Donald Payne [Sr.] did for people in life can never be measured. So I’m not trying to fill his shoes, I stand on my own two feet. Anybody who needs to question that, you just watch,” Payne said as supporters in orange campaign shirts hollered their approval.
Today’s primary race in the 10th was one of the most compelling in the state, tinged as it was by the tragic loss this year of Donald Payne Sr., . Stepping forward to succeed Payne, widely admired throughout his district for his work on behalf of humanitarian causes, were six candidates, including three considered to be exceptionally strong: his son, Payne Jr., president of the Newark Municipal Council and a member of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders; Ron Rice, also a member of the Newark Municipal Council, who earned the backing of labor organizations as well as fellow municipal council members; and state Sen. Nia Gill of Montclair, the most experienced lawmaker running today.
"I'd be lying to say that it didn't hurt because it does," "Sometimes the best candidates don't run and many more times the best candidates don't win."
Rice, with 11,233 votes, still had some cause for cheer, earning second place in tonight's election.
"We ran a good campaign, based on issues," said Gill, who fell short overall with 9,810, but was the lead vote-getter in Hudson County, with 3,905, or about 800 more than Payne's total there.
"Of course we will honor the people. I still think it is necessary to have run this race, even though the power structure is aligned against me."
Rounding out the field were Cathy Wright of Newark, a former AT&T manager who now works for The Star-Ledger newspaper, Mayor Wayne Smith of Irvington, and Dennis Flynn of Glen Ridge, an Air Force veteran of the Iraq War. Wright received 468 votes, Flynn 751 votes and Smith 1,291 votes.
Payne actually won two elections today: one to fill the remaining few weeks of his father’s term, for which he would be sworn in in mid-November, and the other to be the Democratic nominee in the November general election. Smith and Rice had also sought both posts, while the remaining candidates, as well as Republican candidate Brian Keleman of Bayonne, who ran unopposed, were seeking only the full two-year term, which begins January 2013.
Going into the November election Payne, as the Democratic candidate, is the odds-on favorite to win in a district that has been a party stronghold for generations. The district -- which includes much of Newark as well as parts of Bloomfield, Montclair and West Orange as well as all of South Orange and Maplewood -- contains a number of core Democratic Party constituencies, including African-Americans, Latinos, union members and well-educated social liberals.
Newarkers also voted today for congressional representation in the sprawling 8th District, which encompasses the East Ward as well as Belleville and parts of Bergen, Hudson and Union counties. The East Ward, which previously had been located in the 13th District, was shifted to the 8th this year following once-a-decade redistricting that reduced the number of New Jersey’s congressional seats by one.
Albio Sires, who had represented the old 13th since 2006, again sought to be the Democratic nominee for the people of the East Ward. He rode the dual advantages of incumbency and a large campaign war chest to victory over his opponent, 25-year-old computer programmer Michael Shurin of Jersey City. Sires received 29,251 votes to Shurin’s 3,592 votes.
Sires in November squares off against Republican Maria Karczewski of Bayonne, who ran unopposed.
Lia Eustachewich and Linda Federico-O'Murchu contributed to this report.