Progressives didn’t invest much in the New Jersey House primaries, but that didn’t mean they weren’t paying attention to Tuesday night’s results.
Results from the 10th Congressional District, where Imani Oakley, the former New Jersey Working Families legislative director, challenged Rep. Donald Payne Jr., were of particular interest. A strong showing from Oakley might have set the stage for another, better-funded and organized effort to oust Payne in two years.
But Payne, a five-term incumbent who took over the seat from his late father, raced out to an early lead and comfortably clinched the nomination.
A new PAC, Team Blue, co-chaired by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Terri Sewell of Alabama and Cheri Bustos of Illinois, was also paying close attention. Before polls closed on Tuesday, they put out a statement reiterating their support for Payne – with a jab at the left for good measure.
“Rep. Payne, a proven progressive, is facing a primary challenge from the extreme left, mirroring the recent, failed effort to take down Rep. Shontel Brown in Ohio,” the co-chairs said.
Oakley, in a statement, ripped the party establishment in New Jersey’s over what she described as “dirty tricks” and lamented the continued influence of “our state’s corrupt political machine,” but vowed to continue her fight.
Whether national progressives will be there to back her is another question. The larger local progressive organizations, including the New Jersey WFP, almost unanimously backed Payne.
Results from the Garden State’s 8th Congressional District, where Rep. Albio Spires retired to make way for Robert Menendez Jr., son of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, were also dispiriting for progressives. Menendez Jr. has never held office, but quickly secured key endorsements in a district that might have otherwise invited a competitive contest.
Menendez Jr. ultimately faced two other candidates, including progressive David Ocampo Garajales, who looks unlikely to crack 15% of the vote.