Donald Payne Jr., a six-term congressman from Newark who followed his father's footsteps onto Capitol Hill, died Wednesday at the age of 65.

Payne had been in the hospital after suffering a hear attack on April 6. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.

John Boehner, Donald Payne Jr.
Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., stands with his family for a ceremonial photo in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol after the new 113th Congress convened on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, in Washington.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Gov. Phil Murphy expressed his condolences in a written statement, saying "Tammy and I are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of our friend, and a steadfast champion for the people of New Jersey."


Payne's congressional term began in 2012 after the death of his father, who had served 12 terms in the House of Representatives. Previously, the younger Payne had served on the Newark City Council and before that the Essex County Board of Freeholders.

He won his most recent re-election in 2022 with more than 77% of the vote in a district comprising parts of Essex and Union counties and part of Jersey City.

Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne Jr.
Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., D-N.J., talks with Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., in 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Writing in the New Jersey Globe on Wednesday, political reporters Joey Fox and David Wildstein described Payne as "low-key but effective."

In Congress, Payne helped pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, the Paycheck Fairness Act and billions in funding for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne via X March 7, 2024
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (via X March 7, 2024)

He was also a major advocate for the Gateway Project to expand rail service between New Jersey and New York.

"His dogged determination to win appropriations to win federal funding for the Gateway Project resulted in a $900 million appropriation to upgrade and refashion the infrastructure connecting downtown New York City to the heart of Newark, and reinvigorate the greater Northeast transportation corridor," Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said Wednesday.

“As the son and namesake of the first African-American to represent New Jersey as a U.S. Congressman, Representative Payne had leadership and love for Newark in his DNA," Baraka said. “All Newarkers mourn the loss of this great, compassionate man today. I mourn the loss of a stalwart friend and ally and send my deepest condolences to his wife Beatrice, his children, and all his loved ones."

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J. 9th District, said the "Payne name will live on in Newark and North Jersey forever."

"He led the way for rail transportation and men’s health in the Capitol and was a beloved member of our state’s congressional delegation, always thinking about everybody else but himself," Pascrell said.

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