Democrats once again selected incumbent Donald Payne Jr. as their nominee for the 10th Congressional District seat in Tuesday’s primary election, ending the insurgent campaign of progressive political activist Imani Oakley, who’d run a campaign criticizing the status quo and institutional politics.

The Associated Press called the race at about 9:30 p.m., with 20% of the vote counted. By 10:45 p.m., Payne had 24,862 votes — or 83.2% of those votes in so far — to Oakley’s 3,158, or 10.6% of the vote, according to the AP tally, with 73% of the vote counted.

"This is a victory for the hardworking men and women of the 10th District who showed that they demand experienced, effective leadership that puts their needs first and always shows up for them, and that’s exactly what I have always strived to deliver as their Congressman,” Payne said in a statement released by his campaign Tuesday night.

He said his campaign had "successfully appealed to all corners of the Democratic Party and artfully bridged the gap between progressives and moderates." Oakley and several organizations supporting her had described her as a progressive alternative to the considerably more entrenched Payne.

Payne was first elected in 2012, replacing his father, Donald Payne Sr., who held the congressional seat for 24 years before dying that year. 

His campaign Tuesday night also boasted of posting "record-breaking fundraising numbers, allowing [the campaign] to build a strong political organization that prioritized direct voter contact."

NJ.com reported last week Oakley's own substantial fundraising in the campaign had posed a significant challenge to Payne. She'd raised $425,511 through May 18, with 59% of it in donations of $200 or less, the site reported. Payne had raised $946,947 through May 18, with 57% from political action and campaign committees.

Oakley, in a statement Tuesday night, said her campaign had "won the fight to give Black voters representation in NJ-10, empowered marginalized communities and earned national support."

"But we were outspent 3-1, and the establishment used every trick in the book to stop us," she said. She criticized the "anti-democratic ballot line" — the line of party-endorsed candidates that included Payne.

Payne counted Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller among his endorsements. Oakley, a Montclair resident living in the township’s Fourth Ward, picked up several key endorsements, including by including Black Lives Matter PAC.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination had been sociology professor Akil Khalfani, whom NJ.com said has not reported raising any campaign funds. Khalfani had received 1,857 votes by about 10:45 p.m.

David Pinckney earned the Republican nomination, with 3,166 votes (82.5%) as of 10:45 p.m. to Garth Stewart's 671 (17.5%). 

Imani Oakley
Imani Oakley
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Montclair is split into two legislative districts — the 10th and 11th. District lines — and, for many residents, polling places — had shifted since Montclair residents last went to the polls, in a process prompted by population changes in the 2020 Census.

The new map, in effect for the next decade, leaves the southeast portion of Montclair — by and large, the township's Fourth Ward, where its greatest concentrations of Black and brown residents live — in the majority-Black 10th District, currently represented by Payne. The remainder of Montclair is in the 11th District, currently represented by Democrat Mikie Sherrill, unopposed in her party's primary. But overall, the 10th ceded significant territory in Montclair to the 11th, amid changes affecting several communities.

Issues of race, culture and politics had come into play in the debate over redistricting, with the state's redistricting commission charged with weighing considerations like how to group communities of interest or line up districts with other political boundaries. Oakley had been among the most prominent voices opposing one proposal to put all of  Montclair in the 11th — saying it would silence the voices of Black and brown voters in a district that would otherwise be much whiter and more affluent than southern Montclair.

The 10th District had already been considered a Democratic stronghold. Ultimately, the changes strengthened Sherrill's standing. The 11th District had once been solidly Republican territory, but has leaned bluer in recent years, demonstrated most significantly in 2018 when Sherrill beat Republican Jay Webber in the race to succeed longtime GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. The new map gives her further Democratic support across several towns. The reconfiguration also moves Sherrill into the district she represents. She owns a house in the current 10th District (in the Third Ward of Montclair), but rented a home for a time in the 11th. She moved back to the home she owns in 2019, saying she’d had difficulty selling it and that her one-year rental lease was up, but described the move as temporary at the time.

Update, June 8: The Associated Press has called the Republican primary for the 11th Congressional District for Paul DeGroot.

Republican Paul DeGroot bested Tayfun Selen, Toby Anderson, Ruth McAndrew and Alexander Halter for their nomination to challenge Sherrill. The AP called the race Wednesday. As votes came in, Selen and DeGroot were in a close match. By 3:13 p.m.  Wednesday, the AP had tallied 12,255 for DeGroot (39.4%) to Selen's 10,956 (35.3%), with no other candidate in striking distance. 

Longtime incumbent Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., a Democrat, was unopposed for his party's nomination for reelection. Republican Adam Kraemer was unopposed in the race for the GOP nomination.

The new ward and election districts again apply in the Nov. 8 general election. 

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