U.S. Congressman Donald Payne died today after a brief battle with colon cancer. Payne has represented most of Newark and portions of nearby cities like Elizabeth and Jersey City in the U.S. Congress since being elected in 1988 as the first African-American Congressman out of New Jersey. He was a South Ward Councilman from 1978 until resigning in 1988 after winning his Congressional elections. Payne was one of four New Jersey Congressmen opposing the Iraq War, and voted against the 2008 Wall Street bailout, something then presidential candidates Senators Barack Obama and John McCain both voted for.
Payne served as the top Democrat on the House Africa Subcommittee. As part of his work on Africa policy, he was arrested in the summer of 2001 protesting in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, and in 2009 his plane was attacked my mortars as it flew out of Mogadishu in Somalia, but in both cases he came out safely.
Payne is survived by his son, at-large Councilman Donald Payne Jr., who currently serves as the Council President. Even after being diagnosed with colon cancer in February, Donald Payne intended to run for re-election even though he faced a challenge from West Ward Councilman Ron Rice. Whether the State of New Jersey organizes a special election to send someone to fill the remainder of Congressman Payne's term or whether the seat will remain vacant until November's regularly scheduled election remains to be seen, as does whether anyone other than Councilman Ronald Rice jumps into the race (count on it).