Donald Payne dead: New Jersey congressman dies of colon cancer

Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) a 12-term member of Congress and the former chariman of the Congressional Black Caucus, died Tuesday from colon cancer.

Payne's death was confirmed by an aide to House Democratic leaders who declined to be identified. Payne’s office had announced on Feb. 10 that he was undergoing treatment for colon cancer, the Associated Press reported

According to the Star-Ledger, Payne was taken from Georgetown University Hospital in Washington and was flown by medical transport to New Jersey on March 2. He was admitted to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.  

The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), hailed Payne as "a champion for the underserved, a voice for the downtrodden, a leader for peoples and causes that are too often neglected."

According to the Hill, Payne was born in 1934 and grew up in Newark, New Jersey.  He worked as both a school teacher and a business executive, and was national president of the YMCA.  Payne, a 24-year veteran of Capitol Hill, lost his first race for the House in 1986, but won in 1988 and has been reelected easily ever since.  

He was planning on running for a 13th term, even after the initial diagnosis of his illness.  

In addition to being the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Payne was the senior Democrat on the Foreign Affair's Committee's Africa sub-panel.  

According to the Hill, Payne's interest in US-Africa relations almost got him killed during a visit to Somalia in 2009, when he became the target of Islamic militants who fired mortar rounds at his plane, The New York Times reported.  Ten people were injured during the attack.  

Payne represented a safely Democratic district and the race to replace him is not expected to affect the balance in the House. 

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