A hotly contested race is shaping up in the 10th Congressional District, where four major Democratic candidates and three newcomers are vying to become the next U.S. Representative.

The district, represented for many years by the late Donald M. Payne, includes parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties. District towns covered by The Alternative Press include Maplewood and parts of Millburn, South Orange and West Orange.

The four candidates are Newark Council President Donald M. Payne Jr., State Sen. Nia Gill, Newark West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice and Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith.

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Also running in the Democratic primary are Cathy Wright of Newark and Dennis R. Flynn of Glen Ridge. Brian C. Keleman has filed to run as a Republican in the primary.

Smith has been Irvington’s mayor for 10 years and has been chairman of the 26-member NJ Urban Mayors Association for five years.

“I am no stranger to the halls of Congress,” he said in a statement when he announced his candidacy at the end of March. “I have learned how to work successfully with the Congressional system.

"As a former councilman, I understand the role of a legislator,” he continued. “I am an avid reader and keep abreast of current affairs, local priorities, district needs and global concerns. I have a burning desire to present the residents of the 10th Congressional District.”

Additional information on Smith is available at www.irvington.net.

Donald M. Payne Jr., son of the late representative, is a lifelong resident of Newark and has served as a South Ward District leader there for 20 years. He has served as the president of the Newark City Council since 2010.

He also serves as an Essex County freeholder-at-large.

More information is available on Payne at www.ci.newark.nj.us/

Gill, a Democrat, represents the 34th District in the State Senate. She has served in the NJ Senate for 10 years and before that, was a member of the NJ General Assembly for eight years.

An attorney, Gill has served as the Senate President Pro-Tempore since January 2010.

Her web site is www.niagill.com.

Rice, also an attorney, has served on the Newark Council for six years. He first ran for city council in Newark in 2002 with mayoral candidate Cory A. Booker in a losing effort. In 2006, as a member of the Booker Team for Newark, Rice was sworn into office with the newly elected mayor.

Rice, a third-generation resident of Newark, is the son of State Sen. Ronald L. Rice and has his father’s endorsement.

He announced his intention to run for the Congressional office even before Payne died last month while still in office.

He has a web site, “Ron C. Rice for Congress/It’s Time,” at www.ron-rice.com/, where he outlines his platform. He also gives his reason for running:

“I want the history of our district to inspire the fight for a new vision and new ideas that will bring about historic success. I envision all three counties, and every single resident as partners in that mission….”

Additional information on Rice is available at www.ci.newark.nj.us/

The Congressional seat Payne occupied will remain vacant until November.

The candidates will run in two June primaries, a special one to fill the remainder of Payne’s term from November to January, and a regular one to serve a full term beginning in January.

Two general elections will then be held in November, one for the regular term and one for the period between November and January.

The special elections will be for the old 10th District, whose boundaries are valid until January, and the regular elections will be for the new district, which was redrawn four months ago.

Requests for statements from Payne and Gill were not answered. Rice’s press secretary sent a press release announcing that Rice has received endorsements from two other Newark councilmen.