This week, Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff and former New Jersey Assemblyman William D. Payne endorsed Shavar Jeffries for mayor of Newark. He also agreed to serve as campaign co-chairperson.

Jeffries said that he is grateful to be endorsed by someone with such a deep-rooted connection to Newark.

“I am honored and humbled to accept the endorsement of William Payne. He is highly regarded and respected by countless people throughout the city and the state,” said Jeffries. “His lifelong connection, contribution and service to our neighborhoods as a public servant and community and organizational leader are matched by few.”

Until last week, the 39-year-old Jeffries was running a distant third in the mayor’s race. People barely knew his name. After Councilmen Anibal Ramos and Darrin Sharif dropped out, the former assistant state attorney general became a contender against Ras Baraka, who leads in the polls, in a race that is likely to be one of Newark’s hardest-fought political battles in more than a decade.

Payne, a distinguished community leader and public official, noted Jeffries’ unique qualifications, background, skills and experience as premier reasons for his support.

“Shavar Jeffries is a prime example of the best of what Newark can produce. He is the leader Newark needs now,” said Payne. “It is clear that Shavar’s combination of experience, bold and innovative ideas, proven solutions and commitment are required for our next mayor.”

Payne also noted that Jeffries’ successful record in helping to reduce crime throughout the state while working as an assistant attorney general will help Newark in facing its challenges concerning public safety.