Matt Arco’s story on the late U.S. Rep. Pete Rodino summons another key political episode in the history of Essex County politics: the shift of power from Mr. Rodino to the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne.
Ray Durkin served as Democratic State chair from 1985-89 and witnessed Mr. Rodino’s victory over Mr. Payne in 1986.
Rodino won big. But Durkin saw an opportunity for a much longer lasting victory.
He went to Mr. Rodino and asked the Congressman if he would consider not running again in order to help create an opportunity for Newark to get the first African American Congressman from New Jersey.
Mr. Rodino had great credit in the black community. His fellow federal lawmakers in the Black Caucus called him “our black congressman.”
But Mr. Rodino wanted to be part of helping the African American community gain more political power, and he promised Durkin that he wouldn’t run again.
Durkin and the Democratic Party awarded the line To Mr. Payne, who became New Jersey’s first African American member of Congress.