Payne on county executive endorsement: too early

Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo just introduced U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark), who stands at the podium in the Prudential Center now.

"Joe DiVincenzo's done a great job in Essex County, putting Essex County first," Payne tells the crowd. "I'm fired up and ready to go."

Moments earlier,Paynewouldn't commit to DiVincenzo's re-election when asked by

"It's a little early for that, isn't it," he said.

At issue is DiVincenzo's participation in shoving Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland) out the door earlier this fall, offering thee argument that Codey didn't have the votes to withstand Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford).

Buzz started in political circles that Codey – nursing revenge – would run a county executive candidate against DiVincenzo next year.

But insiders say Codey won't go there unless he- or the candidatehe backs – can land the support of Payne, whose support in countywide elections is critical for any challenger to the popular DiVincenzo's throne.

Payne's brother, Bill Payne, is strategically cocooned within the DiVincenzo administration as deputy chief of staff, in part as a hedge against any murmurs of a Payne rebellion or family alliance with the likes of, for example, Codey.

But for the moment, at least, the congressman won't declare his support for a county executive candidate. Payne on county executive endorsement: too early