Even as public officials mourn the passing of the state’s first African-American member of the House of Representatives, Donald Payne, politically minded people are on the move to set up a special election for the June primary.
Because electing Payne’s replacement comes at a time when congressional districts have changed as a result of the 2010 Census, the process will be slightly more confusing than in the past when Rep. Albio Sires replaced Robert Menendez in the House of Representatives.
Officials say two elections, the special and primary election, will both be on the same date, June 5. The special election to choose someone to serve out Payne’s remaining term will be held in polling places in the old pre-Census congressional district. At the same time, the primary to choose party candidates for the November election for the same seat will be held in polling places in the newly-drawn district.
The new district lines give the 10th Congressional district larger parts of Bayonne, Jersey City and other communities, while eliminating places such as the city of Elizabeth.
State Sen. Ronald Rice Jr. will likely pick up the seat since he has already indicated that he is running. If he wins the special election, he will serve out the term that ends in January 2013, and if he also wins the primary, he will run as the Democratic candidate for the seat against a Republican challenger this November, and will be sworn in to a new term when Congress reconvenes in January.
Republican Hudson County Chairman Jose Arango said the party is currently looking at candidates for the various congressional seats.
He said the biggest challenge will be for whoever faces off against Sires in the 8th Congressional District that represents a large portion of Hudson County.
Local Republicans will be on national stage
Hudson County Republicans appear to be lining up behind Gov. Christopher Christie’s choice for a presidential candidate: Mitt Romney.
Hoboken Councilwoman Jennifer Giattino will represent New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District at the Republican Convention in Tampa, Fla. later this year.
“She will lead our delegation,” Arango said. “She is doing a terrific job and has a lot of credibility.”
Also part of the Republican delegation will be Tony Rico from North Bergen, who is the chief financial officer for Goya Foods, and Elaine Cueto, a Republican delegate.
Tributes to Payne continued to come out. Mark A. Smith, Bayonne mayor and chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO), said he joined all of New Jersey in mourning the loss of “a tireless advocate and statesman.”
“I was fortunate to have known and worked with the congressman for years,” Smith said. “Congressman Payne was a tremendous public servant, and a true advocate for senior citizens, working families and children in Bayonne, Hudson County, and all of New Jersey. His tireless work on behalf of public schools, affordable healthcare, and closing the achievement gap will not soon be forgotten.”
Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, who also serves as chairman of the Bayonne Democratic Committee, joined with the constituents of the 10th Congressional District in mourning the loss of a great leader. Payne represented a portion of Bayonne as well as Jersey City.
“For those of us fortunate enough to have known and been represented by the congressman, we will never forget his dedication to those less fortunate and working men and women,” O’Donnell said. “Congressman Payne was a tireless advocate on behalf of children, working families, and senior citizens in Bayonne and the entire 10th District. His commitment to closing the achievement gap, providing equitable funding for public schools, and making health care more affordable, made our community a better place in which to live. Congressman Payne was a true public servant, and his legacy will live on.”
Freeholder districts still contested
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans have yet to work out the details for redrawing lines for the county Board of Freeholders districts, which Arango believes should have been done for last year’s freeholder elections, but must be worked out shortly in order to set the lines for the next election in 2014.
The Republicans want to get away from the current districting system that more or less allows each freeholder to represent a town or portion of town in Hudson County. There are nine freeholder seats, with three and portion of a fourth district representing Jersey City.
The map of new districts presented by the Republicans would shape the districts along ethnic group lines rather than municipal lines, something the Democrats appear to oppose.
Arango said he wants to divide the districts up so that mayors and political bosses have less control over how freeholders vote, and give more input from local community leaders who are most impacted by the decisions made by freeholder votes.
Mark Smith, as an HCDO member, admits that the process has been delayed through dealing with other issues, but has indicated that the changes the Democrats are looking for would not be as dramatic as the ones proposed by the Republicans. One change, however, that both parties seem to agree on is the expansion of the Hoboken freeholder seat. The massive increase in population in Hoboken will force that district to change. Arango wants to remove the portion of Jersey City Heights included in that district, and expand the district south into the Pavonia/Newport area of Jersey City.