Democratic Newark Councilman Ronald C. Rice officially announced he is running for U.S. Congress via Facebook and a YouTube video on Thursday. Rice will be running in the primary against U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Sr. (D-NJ), who has long held New Jersey's 10th congressional district seat since 1988 and was the state's first elected African-American congressman.
"In January, after much prayer and consultation, I began exploring a bid for Congress because our Congress is broken," says Rice, who represents Newark's West Ward, in the YouTube video. "We need new ideas and new leadership to finally tackle age old problems that have persisted in our nation for far too long."
The congressional district is a reliable Democratic Party bastion and covers parts of Essex, Union, and Hudson counties, according to this map. This election cycle will be South Orange's first time voting in the 10th district. Previously, the Village was represented in congress by William Pascrell, Jr.
Rice and Payne, both Newark natives, are expected to go toe to toe in this year's June primary with the victor likely winning the seat in the November elections.
It has not been a surprise for Rice to run for Payne's seat. Back in November, he announced he was forming an exploratory committee,
His committee held a cocktail reception on Jan. 30, Monday at the Spot Bar & Restaurant on Commerce Street in Newark, according to Rice's Facebook page. Attendants were encouraged to donate money towards the group.
Rice, whose council term ends in 2014, is the son of state Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex). The younger Rice serves alongside Payne's son, Donald Payne, Jr., who is the city's council president.
Councilman Rice was first elected to the Newark council in 2006 as part of Mayor Cory Booker's slate, but has emerged as an independent-minded politician who has investigated allegations of police misconduct under Booker's handpicked police director, then Garry McCarthy, and has advocated for a city inspector general and stricter pay-to-play rules.
Payne, 77, will be a formidable opponent with his strong backing of the state's Democratic Party.
The longtime congressman serves as the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and is a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, according to his official Congressional biography.
From his seat, Payne said in his biography that he has advocated for better education, workforce protections, and human rights in the world.
Both men did not immediately reply for comment on Thursday.
Rice had said in a that it's not personal and said he is aware of the challenges of running against Payne, who is one of Newark's elder statesmen. "I have a very good relationship with (Payne)," he said in the same report.
-Newark Patch Editor Lia Eustachewich contributed to this report.