Newark West Ward councilman Ron C. Rice makes it official with the release of the video below on his website, issuing a primary challenge to Rep. Donald Payne – first African-American ever elected to Congress from New Jersey – for the seat that’s been his since 1989. Payne is 77.
Our Congress is broken. We need new ideas and new leadership to finally tackle age-old problems that have persisted in our nation for far too long. I’m asking for your support.
Ron C. Rice (video)
Unlike the northland’s other congressional primary contest, Rothman v. Pascrell, this is not the clash of resentful equals and titans that race has apparently gelled into. This is different, the challenge of a young man making waves across generations to an older man in a 22-year incumbency. Donald Payne has a progressive voting record, Ron Rice is a progressive man. That, among other things, will make this an interesting race. Note: Rice’s website still lists his as an Exploratory Committee.
More below the fold.
The Rices and the Paynes. In a part of the state where Democratic party family dynasty has helped shape North Jersey politics for decades, these two families of Essex are key players. Rice is the son of state senator Ronald Rice, currently a thorn in the side of Chris Christie, himself a 16-year veteran of the Newark City Council (elected by the West Ward, as is his son), and later the city’s Deputy Mayor under Sharpe James. He stepped down as Deputy Mayor in 2006 to run against Cory Booker for Mayor, as an ally of James. When Cory Booker won that race (with 72% of the vote), it was a clean sweep. His entire slate – the “Booker Team” – elected. One was Ron C. Rice, running with Booker against his father’s team. The younger Rice learned much from his father, but does not always agree with him. Marriage equality is one such issue; Sen. Rice is a likely Democratic vote against; Councilman Rice a vocal advocate for.
Rep. Payne’s brother, William, was in the NJ Assembly in the 29th, his nephew Craig Stanley was sent to the Assembly from the 28th (the District Senator Rice now represents in the upper house). Payne has been elected 12 times from CD10; his first election came after Peter Rodino, who chaired the Nixon impeachment hearings in the House, retired from Congress.
Rep. Payne has a son, too. And Councilman Rice sees him every day at work. Donald M.Payne, Jr. is a Newark City Councilman, too (and Essex Freeholder).
I know Ron C. Rice. He and Jeff Gardner and I are three of the founding members of Democracy for America in New Jersey, which arose from Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and 50-State Strategy ideas, and Ron was nationally endorsed by DFA when he won in 2006. I’ve seen him at countless events helping to raise money for progressive down-ballot candidates; he has at least 3x at our request driven across the state to help train first-time candidates and help them strategize. He’s as solid a guy as I know.
Payne is also a progressive, his years in office a pedigree. It’s going to be an interesting next few months.