A Democratic state senator from Montclair intends to run for Congress in the 10th District, joining Newark City Councilman Ron C. Rice, whose campaign told The Associated Press Friday that he will formally announce his candidacy next week.

Sen. Nia Gill let word of her intentions leak out Friday, but she has not commented directly. Her campaign spokesman, Pat Politano, and Sen. Ray Lesniak both confirmed her plans.

"She told me she's running," said Lesniak of Union, one of three counties with towns in the district. The others are Essex and Hudson counties.

Rice, 41, planned to announce his candidacy sooner but delayed the announcement when Rep. Donald Payne Sr. died out of respect for the family.

Rice and Gill, who are both black, hope to succeed Payne. The state's only African-American congressman, Payne died of cancer March 6 and was buried Thursday. He had served since 1989.

The vacancy has touched off a flurry of political speculation about possible Democratic successors. The 10th District has not elected a Republican since the 1940s.

Payne's son, Donald Jr., who is Newark City Council president, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver of East Orange, have been mentioned as possible candidates.

Two Democratic insiders said if Payne's son were interested in the seat, the party establishment would coalesce around him. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about private political discussions.

Payne hasn't made a decision.

Rice filed paperwork with federal election officials this month switching his federal exploratory committee to a campaign account, signaling his intent to run.

It's not known what formal steps, if any, Gill has taken toward running.

The filing deadline for the June primary is April 2. Rice, a lawyer, is the son of veteran state Sen. Ron L. Rice.

The elder Rice chairs the Legislative Black Caucus. The younger Rice represents Newark's West Ward. He was elected in 2006 and is in his second term. He first ran for office in 2002 with mayoral candidate Cory

Booker in a losing effort documented in the Academy Award winning documentary "Street Fight." As a member of the Booker Team four years later, Rice was sworn in with the newly elected Booker. Gill, a lawyer, has been in the state Legislature since 1994, first as an assemblywoman then as a senator since 2002.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)