by MAX PIZARRO
Assemblyman William Payne, who returned from China yesterday on a trip with his brother, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, confirmed this evening that he didn't meet today's primary filing deadline because he intends to run for State Senate in the 29th district as an independent.
Albeit regretfully modified, he insisted on retaining his party identify.
"I am going to file as an independent Democrat and run in the general election," Payne told PoliticsNJ in a telephone interview.
The five-term Assemblyman said he was stunned last month to learn the Essex County Democratic Party machine was bypassing him as a State Senate candidate. People close to him told Payne to step aside in the name of party unity, but he said he couldn't.
"I think it's important for us to have someone in Trenton who has experience," said Payne, who pointed out that the ticket backed by Newark Mayor Cory Booker and the machine is made up of people who have served no significant time in public office.
He said he decided a week ago that he would not participate in the Democratic Primary. A month earlier he talked with district 29 Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, and the two of them decided to run individually.
"It takes two to tango," Payne said of unsuccessful efforts to pull off a Payne-Caraballo pairing.
Payne said he is now in the process of getting an independent team together, yet stressed he wants people to remember he is a Democrat. His main reason for running as an independent is he says he feared reprisals against Newark City Hall workers who might have voted for him in a Democratic Primary; or who voted for the opposition strictly out of fear.
"In a primary many people would have been subject to a great deal of pressure," Payne said.
He wants to win the old diehards, and go after a broader base of support in the general election.
"I would like to speak to people who are not enmeshed in day-to-day politics," said the Assemblyman. "I would like to give an opportunity to that vast universe of other folks who have re-located to Newark, independent voters and voters who are looking for an experienced voice in Trenton."
He heartily endorsed the 28th district ticket of State Sen. Ron Rice, Assemblyman Craig Stanley and Assemblywoman Odaline Truitt, a team opposed by Booker but backed by the Essex County Democratic Organization.
"These people have a record of achievemnent," said Payne. "It makes no sense to replace people who have that kind of reputation."
In his own race he said he wants to stand up not only for the people of Newark, but for his own family legacy.
"We've got the right name," he said. "Our name is Payne, and we're like a pane. With us, what you get is transparency, like a window pane. If you follow your true beliefs, if you fight for funding for Abbott School districts, if you stand up for Abbott funding for the Hillside School District, if you stay with that, there is no problem."