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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Murphy staying out of race to fill Weinberg’s seat

Governor won’t endorse a candidate, but he’ll be bracketed with Johnson

By Nikita Biryukov, February 24 2021 5:06 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy is staying out of the Senate primary to fill Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg’s (D-Teaneck) seat, though he’ll appear at the top of a ticket with one of the candidates.

“Two stars vying to replace one of the all-time greats in Loretta Weinberg, and I’m big fans and big believers in both of them, and I’ll leave it at that,” Murphy said Wednesday when asked if he was prepared to endorse Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood).

Johnson, who was the first elected official at the state level to back Murphy’s 2017 gubernatorial bid, will face an off-the-line primary from his once-runningmate, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood).

Vainieri Huttle on Tuesday announced she would not seek the Bergen County Democrats’ organizational line.

A New Jersey Globe tally of eligible voters at the convention gave Johnson enough votes to secure the organization line, with no path for another candidate to deny him a party endorsement that comes with a preferential spot on the ballot.

On Wednesday, she announced two women, Teaneck Councilwoman Gervonn Romney Rice and Tenafly Councilwoman Lauren Kohn Dayton, would run on her ticket for Assembly.

“I have no choice but to fight for an open and fair process,” Vainieri Huttle said. “I will not allow a predetermined outcome to shape the future of District 37.”

Weinberg last month announced she would not seek re-election after more than 30 years in public office that began with her election to a Teaneck Council seat.

Murphy spoke highly of both Johnson and Vainieri Huttle, saying he was “forever grateful” to the former and “just as close” to the latter.

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