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Donald Payne, New Jersey Congressman, Flown Home For Cancer Treatment

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AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), 77, was flown home from Washington on Friday to continue treatment for colon cancer. Payne, New Jersey's first African-American member of Congress, was taken on a medical transport flight back to his home state, following a stay at a Washington-area hospital. reported that Payne is "gravely ill."

Payne's son, Newark City Council President Donald Payne Jr., told the Star-Ledger about his father's condition.

"We're still a bit optimistic, but I mean you know it is what it is. It's cancer," Payne Jr. said.

Rep. Payne announced he had colon cancer last month, at which time he said his condition was treatable. He also said he would continue his bid for a 13th term. reported that members of Congress were told to visit Payne at George Washington University Hospital earlier on Friday before he left for New Jersey.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker saluted Payne during his State of the City address Thursday night, calling the congressman a "fighter." Payne's son missed the speech to be with his father in Washington, Newark Patch reported.

Payne is a longtime stalwart of politics in Newark, having served as the city's congressman since 1989, when he succeeded retiring House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino (D). Prior to being elected to Congress, Payne was a Newark city councilman and an Essex County freeholder. He had previously unsuccessfully challenged Rodino in a Democratic primary for the congressional seat.

His family is also prominent in Newark political circles. In addition to his son holding both the city council presidency and a county freeholder seat, Payne's brother and one nephew are former state assemblymen, and a cousin chairs the Essex County Democratic Party.

Payne represents parts of Essex, Union and Hudson counties, a territory that remained largely unchanged in the Garden State's latest redistricting. His district includes sections of New Jersey's two largest cities, Newark and Jersey City. Payne is a member of the House Education and Foreign Affairs committees and is the ranking Democrat on the latter panel's Africa Subcommittee.

During a 2009 official visit to Somalia, Payne was a passenger on a plane at which rebels fired missiles. The plane was not hit in the attack.

Payne is currently locked in a Democratic primary battle for reelection with Newark Councilman Ron Rice, the son of a powerful Newark state senator.

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