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Congressman Donald Payne Jr., hospitalized after heart attack, died in his 65th year of life

Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr. has died nearly three weeks after suffering a heart attack that left him hospitalized in a coma at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. He was 65 years old.

The six-term Democrat and Newark native represented the 10th Congressional District, which covers parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties, since 2012, succeeding his late father, Donald Payne Sr. Mourners remember him as a fighter and friend to working families, and a man who Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said had a love for his hometown that was part of his DNA.

"Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. has dedicated himself to the people of Newark, from his teenage years as a founding member of the Junior Democrats of Newark's South Ward, to his work as chairman of our City Council, to his renowned advocacy for New Jersey as a representative in Congress", Baraka said.

Payne is survived by his wife Beatrice and their triplets, Donald III, Jack and Yvonne.

His father was a trailblazer in New Jersey politics, becoming the first black man elected to Congress from New Jersey in 1988. When he died in 2012, his son replaced him, winning a special election to fill the unexpired term.

Paine has served on the Congressional Committees on Homeland Security, Transportation, and Infrastructure, and on various subcommittees, including Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, where he served as one of the ranking members. Prior to serving in Congress, Payne served as a councilman and Essex County Freeholder.

Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement saying he and First Lady Tammy Murphy are "deeply saddened".

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

"A true titan among progressives".

Condolences sprinkled Wednesday from across New Jersey and beyond.

Rep. Andy Kim called Payne's death "incredibly painful news".

"Donald served New Jersey with such honor, care and pride. He was a kind man who was never afraid to fight for what was right. We should strive to follow that example", Kim wrote on social media. "I am proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside such a great man who always took the time to listen to me, give me advice and stand together. Love and strength to his family at this difficult time. All of New Jersey is grieving today".

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. noted Payne's fight to raise awareness about diabetes and colorectal cancer prevention, as well as his advocacy for lead pipe replacement in Newark.

"New Jersey lost a truly great public servant too soon", Pallone said. "Don affectionately called me 'Uncle Frank' whenever I saw him because we cherished the strong relationship that developed after his father's death. We worked together to improve the lives and health of the people of New Jersey".

Rep. Mickey Sherrill said Payne's commitment to strengthening public education and expanding access to health care has changed lives.

"The advice, encouragement and support Donald gave me when I first entered politics has stayed with me to this day. Donald was a man who went the extra mile to make others feel welcomed and heard", Sherrill said.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. said Payne's death has left him "saddened and devastated".

"Like his father, Donald has given his entire life to the people of Newark. I can't think of any deputy who more than Donald embodies the compassion, kindness, integrity, big heart and humility inherent in public service", said Pascrell.

State Sen. Raj Mukherjee (D-Hudson) said Paine was always accessible to those he served and was "a true titan among progressives".

Baraka said Payne's "relentless determination" helped secure a $900 million federal appropriation for the Gateway Project, which will upgrade bridges and tunnels connecting Newark to New York City and improve the region's transportation corridor.

Payne ran unopposed to retain his seat in the upcoming June 4 Democratic primary. His name is on the ballot and cannot be replaced.

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