05/25/2012 12:41 pm ET Updated May 31, 2012

Ron Rice, New Jersey Congressional Candidate, Says He'll Travel Country To Fight Tea Party

A Democratic congressional candidate in New Jersey promised during a debate Thursday to travel the country fighting Tea Party members of Congress.

PolitickerNJ reports that Newark Councilman Ron Rice said during a debate in Newark that as a congressman he plans to travel the country to fight with Tea Party members of Congress in order to weaken them politically. He said the plan will help Democrats retake control of Congress. Rice's travel plans drew a rebuke from one of his five opponents in the race to succeed the late Rep. Donald Payne (D), who died in March.

"You have to skillfully enter into the legislative process," PolitickerNJ reported state Sen Nia Gill (D-Montclair) told Rice during the debate. "Running around is not what is important to the people of the 10th District."

Rice, who is backed by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's group Democracy for America, responded to Gill that he believes "you have to do both," noting that President Barack Obama's agenda depends on ousting Tea Party members of Congress, according to PolitickerNJ.

Rice and Gill are part of a six-way competitive congressional campaign for a seat centered around Newark. The two are competing for the seat against Newark City Council President Don Payne Jr., Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith, Air Force serviceman Dennis Flynn and AT&T executive Cathy Wright. Payne, the son of the late congressman, is seen as the frontrunner based on his backing by the Essex County Democratic Party, which is chaired by his cousin, Phil Thigpen.

The race has been dominated by New Jersey's byzantine primary process which gives county party bosses the ability to grant favored candidates preferential ballot placement in the primary. The district, which encompasses parts of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties, is considered a safe Democratic seat.

Gill has garnered backing from the Democratic Party in Hudson County, along with state Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham (D-Jersey City), who is considered the leader of the African-American community in Jersey City, along with the support of Union County Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella.

Rice has picked up support from several members of the Newark City Council, along with Union County Freeholders Mohammed Jalloh and Chris Hudak, who delivered support to Rice in their hometowns of Roselle and Linden, along with Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley. Union County Democrats are not backing anyone in the race.

In addition to endorsements from Essex County and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, Payne has picked up support from Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop, a longtime opponent of Hudson County Democrats and Cunningham and Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka, a longtime opponent of Hudak and Linden's Democratic Party. Union support has been split in the race.

CORRECTION: This article initially reported that the race was contested by five candidates. It has been updated to include Dennis Flynn's candidacy.