Dem NJ Rep. Donald Payne Jr. dead at 65 following heart attack linked to diabetes

 April 26, 2024

Congress is now short one member after a Democratic representative of New Jersey suddenly passed away this week.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) announced the sad news on Wednesday of the death of Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) at the age of 65, CNN reported.

"We are saddened to be informed of the passing today of Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr., who had been serving New Jersey's 10th Congressional District since 2012, and who succeeded his father in the same position," Johnson said in an X post. "Our prayers are offered today for his family and friends, and especially his wife, Bea, and their three children."

Had been hospitalized in a coma following heart attack

According to CNN, Rep. Payne had been hospitalized earlier this month after suffering a heart attack that was linked to his diabetes.

In an April 17 press release, Payne's office said, "Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. suffered a cardiac episode based on complications from his diabetes last week. Today, he is in stable condition at a local hospital and continues to be under doctor’s care."

"While we hope for a full recovery, we ask everyone to keep him in your prayers," the statement added.

That statement requesting prayer support for the congressman didn't fully reveal the severity of the situation, though, as the New Jersey Monitor reported that Payne had been in a coma since he was hospitalized following the heart attack he suffered three weeks earlier.

The local outlet noted that the late Democrat leaves behind his wife, Beatrice, and their adult triplet children -- Donald III, Jack, and Yvonne.

Governor "deeply saddened" by "tragic" death of congressman

In response to the sad news, Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement, "Tammy and I are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of our friend, and a steadfast champion for the people of New Jersey, Congressman Donald Payne, Jr."

"With his signature bowtie, big heart, and tenacious spirit, Donald embodied the very best of public service. As a former union worker and toll collector, he deeply understood the struggles our working families face, and he fought valiantly to serve their needs, every single day," the governor continued. "That purpose was the light that guided him through his early years as Newark City Council President and during his tenure on the Essex County Board of Commissioners. And it guided him still through his more than a decade of service in Congress."

"It was my great honor to work side-by-side with Donald to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey, and we will hold his memory close to our hearts as we build upon the Payne family’s deep legacy of service in advocating for the communities they served so dearly," Murphy added. "Donald’s love will live on in the homes of his neighbors in Newark, who now have access to safe drinking water, and in the good-paying jobs he helped create for his brothers and sisters in labor. And it will live on in his wife Beatrice, and their three children, Donald III, Jack, and Yvonne, who were the pride of his life. Our heartfelt prayers are with his family during this difficult time."

Governor could call a special election to fill remainder of term; county parties will pick a replacement nominee for general election

Politico reported that Rep. Payne Jr. first entered Congress in 2012 after he won a special election to fill the vacant seat of his father, Rep. Donald Payne Sr., who was the first black congressman from New Jersey and had died that year of colorectal cancer -- which along with the diabetes that he himself suffered became a top focus of the younger Payne's work in Congress on healthcare-related issues.

Ballots have already been printed up and mailed out for New Jersey's upcoming primary election, in which Payne was running unopposed, so it will be up to the county-level Democratic parties in the 10th District to choose a successor candidate to take his place in November's general election, though Gov. Murphy could also call for a special election for a replacement to fill out the remainder of the current term that expires in January.

According to CNN, Payne's death reduces the Democratic minority in the House to 212 members, in comparison to the Republican majority's 217 members, which leaves Speaker Johnson with a two-vote margin on any party-line votes in the immediate future.

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