Against Newark backdrop, Corzine backs Rep. Payne


– Gov. Jon S. Corzine today said Rep. Donald M. Payne, who is serving his tenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, has his unflagging support now, and in 2008.

“He is an outstanding congressman,” said Corzine. “I can’t imagine doing anything other than that [endorsing him].”

The governor’s response to the question of Payne's political future came after he left a public hearing in Newark on chemical plant security chaired by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, at which Payne also testified.

The city sets the scene for several bitter legislative battles this year, all shaken up in the aftermath of the election of Cory Booker as Mayor last spring.

One of the most contentious match-ups is taking place in the 29th district, and involves Payne’s brother, veteran Assemblyman William D. Payne. Last week, Booker endorsed a slate of candidates for the Newark district, including Teresa Ruiz for the State Senate. Bill Payne, who, after almost a decade of service in the Assembly, was hoping for Booker’s support in his bid for State Senate.

Booker, and much of the Essex County leadership, including Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. went with newcomer Ruiz — a move that stunned some older party faithful in Newark, the Paynes included.

At the campaign kick-off, DiVincenzo voiced his unequivocal support for Payne's re-election, but Booker stopped short of giving Payne his unequivocal endorsement for '08.

On his way out of the hearing Monday, the congressman said people are entitled to make up his or her own mind when it comes to campaigns.

But he admitted he was very disappointed.

“It certainly took me by surprise,” Payne said of Booker’s endorsement of Ruiz instead of his brother. “I didn’t think there was a disaster with the leadership in the Assembly. Our record is pretty clear. I would hope he [Booker] would see what we’ve brought to Newark. We have put Newark first.”

David P. Rebovich, the Director of the Rider University Institute for New Jersey Politics, says that Donald Payne is in a different league politically than his older brother.

"Of course, Donald's not William. It's very understandable Corzine would endorse him," said Rebovich. "He's done a good job. At one time he was chair of the Black Congressional Caucus. And he's supported Corzine."

Rebovich had a warning for Booker.

"It's one thing not to back a sitting state legislator. It's another to go after a Congressman. That's one thing, the reform mayor, Booker, should keep in mind," Rebovich said.

Against Newark backdrop, Corzine backs Rep. Payne