Districts 28 and 29

Assemblyman William Payne is actively seeking support for a State Senate bid in the 29th district. The incumbent, Sharpe James, the former Mayor of Newark, has not yet announced whether he will seek re-election to the Senate seat he has held since 1999. Democrats close to Newark Mayor Cory Booker say that Payne is not under serious considertion for the Senate seat. City Councilman Luis Quintana has been widely viewed as the front-runner to replace James in the Senate. He is a close ally of Booker. The 74-year-old Payne, a five term legislator, is the brother of Congressman Donald Payne. His nephew, Craig Stanley, represents the 28th district in the Assembly, and a cousin, Philip Thigpen, is the Essex County Democratic Chairman. Another nephew, Donald Payne, Jr., is an Essex County Freeholder and Newark City Councilman. There continues to be considerable speculation that Democrats will dump Wilfredo Caraballo, who also represents the 29th in the Assembly. Caraballo angered Essex Democrats last year during a fight over the state budget. In the 28th district, Essex County Freeholder Bilal Beasley has announced that he will challenge veteran State Senator Ronald Rice in the Democratic primary. Rice, who was defeated by Booker in the ’06 mayoral race, says he is running again. Beasley is also an Irvington Councilman. Democratic insiders suggest that Assemblywoman Oadline Truitt will not seek re-election. Truitt won a Special Election Convention in early 2005 to replace Evelyn Williams, who resigned after just a few weeks following her arrest on shoplifting charges. Williams had replaced the late Donald Tucker. The leading candidate to replace Truitt on the Democratic line is Ralph Caputo, a two-term Essex County Freeholder. Democratic sources say that Stanley will seek re-election on Beasley’s ticket. If Caputo wins an Assembly seat, he would return to Trenton after a 36-year absence. He was a 29-year-old Republican when he was elected to the State Assembly in 1967 — running on a countywide ticket that included future Governor Thomas Kean. He served two terms before losing his 1971 re-election bid, and made a political comeback as a Democrat in 2002 when he defeated an incumbent in a race for Freeholder.

Districts 28 and 29