Progressives didn’t invest heavily in the New Jersey House primaries, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t paying attention to Tuesday night’s results.
The results from the 10th congressional district, where Imani Oakley, the former legislative director of New Jersey Working Families, challenged Representative Donald Payne Jr., were particularly interesting. A strong showing from Oakley could have paved the way for another better-funded and organized effort to oust Payne in two years.
But Payne, a five-term incumbent who succeeded his late father’s seat, quickly jumped ahead and comfortably clinched the nomination.
A new PAC, Team Blue, co-chaired by representatives Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Terri Sewell of Alabama and Cheri Bustos of Illinois, was also very attentive. Before the polls closed on Tuesday, they released a statement reiterating their support for Payne – with a swipe left for good measure.
“Rep. Payne, a proven progressive, faces a major challenge from the far left, mirroring recent failed efforts to eliminate Rep. Shontel Brown in Ohio,” the co-chairs said.
Oakley, in a statement, tore at the party establishment in New Jersey for what she described as “dirty tricks” and lamented the continued influence of “our state’s corrupt political machine,” but said sworn to continue his fight.
Whether domestic progressives are there to support her is another question. The biggest local progressive organizations, including the New Jersey PAM, almost unanimously backed Payne.
Results from Garden State’s 8th congressional district, where Rep. Albio Spiers retired to make way for Robert Menendez Jr., son of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, were also disheartening for progressives. Menendez Jr. never held office, but quickly earned key endorsements in a district that might otherwise have invited for a pageant.
Menendez Jr. eventually faced two other candidates, including progressive David Ocampo Garajales, who looks unlikely to get 15% of the vote.