Democrat Rep. Payne wins N.J. primary, knocking down spirited challenge from political activist

Published: Jun. 07, 2022

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. easily fought off a spirited primary challenge from political activist Imani Oakley on Tuesday, according to a projection by the Associated Press, to win the Democratic nomination for another term in the congressional seat he has held for 10 years and his father for 24 years before him.

Payne was leading Oakley by more than 8,000 votes — or more than 80% of the vote — in the 10th Congressional District when the AP called the race shortly before 9:30 p.m.

The lawmaker raised more than $1 million for the first time in his congressional career and received endorsements from top Democrats in Congress and in New Jersey. Just last week, House Majority Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., whose 2020 endorsement was crucial to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, headlined a rally for Payne in Newark.

“This is a victory for the hardworking men and women of the 10th District who showed that they demand experienced, effective leadership that puts their needs first and always shows up for them, and that’s exactly what I have always strived to deliver as their Congressman,” Payne said in a statement.

“I would like to thank our incredible supporters for working so hard to make this victory possible, from the many labor unions and progressive organizations that endorsed, to the elected officials and community leaders that engaged with their residents,” he added. “More than anything I want to thank the everyday folks who continue to put their trust and faith in me to represent them in our nation’s capital.”

David Pickney beat Garth Stewart in Tuesday’s Republican primary to face Payne in November’s general election for the seat, according to a projection by the AP.

Payne’s decade of service in Washington built up enough seniority for him to take over the chairmanship of the House Transportation railroads subcommittee, with jurisdiction over Amtrak and the Gateway Tunnel project under the Hudson River.

He said his advocacy of federal funding for Gateway was so well known that whenever he saw Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeg, the cabinet official would say, “’I know, I know, Gateway,’ before he even said hello,” Payne said.

Oakley, a former legislative aide turned community organizer and political activist, relied on small-dollar donations to raise more than $425,000, enough to go on television in addition to knocking on doors in the district.

She said she wasn’t going to get support from establishment Democrats so didn’t ask for their backing.

In a statement Tuesday night, Oakley said “we won the fight to give Black voters representation in (the district), empowered marginalized communities, and earned national support” but added her campaign was outspent and “the establishment used every trick in the book to stop us.”

“The ballot line and our state’s corrupt political machine can be beaten, but it takes courage and sustained effort,” she added. “And regardless of tonight’s results, I’m going to continue fighting against corruption and injustice.”

Sociology professor Akil Khalfani, who did not report raising any money through May 18, also sought the seat.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-06-08 05:39:33 -0700