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US House Democrat Donald Payne Jr. dead at 65


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Payne Jr., a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives who represented a northern New Jersey district, has died after a cardiac episode, the state’s governor’s office said on Wednesday.

“As a former union worker and toll collector, he deeply understood the struggles our working families face, and he fought valiantly to serve their needs, every single day,” Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement.

Republicans currently hold a narrow 218-213 majority in the House, and with a fractious majority at times bucking leadership single votes have the power to change legislative outcomes.

“Our prayers are offered today for his family and friends, and especially his wife, Bea, and their three children,” Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, said.

Payne Jr., 65, was first elected to the seat in 2012, after the death of his father, Donald Payne. The older Payne had represented the district since 1989.

The younger Payne’s office said earlier this week that he was in the hospital after suffering complications related to diabetes.

Payne Jr. was running unopposed in the June 4 Democratic primary for his seat. The date has passed for candidates to file for the seat, and ballots started being mailed out to voters April 20.

The governor’s office declined to provide details on plans for filling the seat.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Scott Malone and Diane Craft)

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