The third person interviewed for the 10th Congressional Seat was Donald Payne, Jr., President of the Newark city Council. While Mr. Payne failed to inform us that he would be unable to make two prior interviews, he did contact us eventually.
Dhiren Shah: Welcome to this interview. You are trying to follow in the footsteps of your father’s career. He has kept the relations with both sides of the aisle and kept his head high all the time. What made you reach the decision to run for Congress?
Donald Payne, Jr.: On March 6th the district has lost a great leader. I had to reevaluate everything going on my life. I talked to my family and children, and I realized to run for congress is the right thing to do. In this difficult time of ours, I should offer the district the public service that they are accustomed to.
DS: Right now, you are holding three positions, Council President of the Newark City Council, Essex County Freeholder, and a consulting job. Is it justifiable to work these jobs and not favor the firm you are consulting? Would you repeat having multiple positions if you are elected as Congressman?
DP: You are wrong. I have only two jobs. Both are part-time jobs. All freeholders are holding some other jobs. I am elected by the people and voted in on both occasions.
DS: From a young man to now, you have seen your father working with many congresspersons and senators. So for you, it is easy to work with Congress as you have a little experience. Did you help your father on any congressional project?
DP: I offered much needed support whenever my father needed me. However, I have not handled and work on the projects. I have a great relationship with Congress. Congress goes on with a seniority system. I can fit with 300, 200, 70 or even 25 clubs. Nancy Pelosi, the Minority leader, has endorsed me.
DS: If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
DP: Biting my fingernails.
DS: What do you consider as your greatest success?
DP: Saving the life of a young girl. There are two hotels under construction in the city of Newark, the Marriott and Indigo. I have tied Newark Works and hotel management for training for the hospitality curriculum and training Newarkers in the hotel service business, including the front end of the service. My greatest success is job creation for Newarkers.
DS: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
DP: I’m a frustrated basketball player who wanted to go to the NBA. I did not have the height. Also, I am good at telling jokes.
DS: Right now, it seems like you are an adversary of Newark Mayor Cory Booker. The budget has not been allowed for introduction. If you have been elected as a congressman, how you would work with the city of Newark?
DP: I would make sure to create policies at a national level for the people I represent. Find dollars for projects back in the community. The legacy is there; the groundwork has already been laid. I would continue the same work and continue what he (Payne, Sr.) did.
DS: Nia Gill, Ronald C. Rice, Wayne Smith, Dennis Flynn and Cathy Wright all are hopefuls for the Democratic Candidacy for the congressional seat. Why you are better qualified than all the other candidates?
DP: My legislation experience. That’s was Congress is. All good democrats are in the race, but I can move forward and quicker. They do not have a relationship with Congress.
DS: What is your opinion for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan?
DP: I support the President, but I would like a quicker withdrawal. I support the troops. There is no further need for harm, and we should bring the troops back home quicker than the President proposed.
DS: Pakistan and United States are having some grievances since the capture of Osama Bin Laden? What is your opinion about the policies with Pakistan?
DP: For years we have been told that Pakistan is among our allies. However, the question is our relationship. We thought Osama was hiding in a cave up in the mountains, but he was in downtown in an upper middle class community. Pakistan has inconsistency as our ally. It has to be evaluated again.
DS: Your father has done great work for the African nations. What will be your policy if you are elected as a congressperson?
DP: I will continue to support the work that my father has done. I am nowhere near what he has done, but I have an obligation. They will be looking to me as a son. I have been there (visited) at a municipal level. I will follow the legacy.
DS: Do you have any message for your constituents?
DP: My warm condolences in this difficult time to the Payne family, friends and supporters. My sister and I have had a very difficult time. The most difficult decision was to run for congress. I have done right and I will continue to work the way he (Donald Payne, Sr.) did for 23 years. I would like to have your support in the upcoming election.