Booker won’t commit to backing Rep. Payne next year

By Max Pizzaro

NEWARK, March 14 – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. says he would definitely support Rep. Donald M. Payne for re-election in 2008, but Newark Mayor Cory Booker stopped short of giving the ten-term incumbent his unconditional endorsement.

Booker and DiVincenzo Wednesday endorsed Teresa Ruiz for the Democratic State Senate nomination in the 29th district. The congressman’s brother, Assemblyman William D. Payne, says he will run for the same seat.

“This in no way has anything to with that,” said DiVincenzo, who described Congressman Payne as “a great friend, and great supporter, who is doing such an excellent job.” He said he was “absolutely” willing to endorse Payne now.

Faced with the same question, Booker said, “Yes, I am an unconditional supporter of my congressman. We have a good working relationship. I am supporting him.”

But Booker gave himself plenty of wiggle room to change his mind. “I make no commitment to future elections,” the mayor said. ”

Booker described his professional relationship with Newark’s Congressman as emblematic of a renaissance of goodwill between municipal and national leadership in Newark.

Ironically, Booker’s comments came exactly nineteen years after House Judiciary Chairman Peter Rodino said he would retire after forty years in Congress. Rodino’s March 14, 1988 retirement paved the way for Donald Payne to become the first — and still only — African American to represent New Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Booker won’t commit to backing Rep. Payne next year