Gov. Phil Murphy said he was only vaguely aware of accusations of anti-Semitism leveled against a Democratic Assembly candidate who call for a boycott of some Jewish businesses in Teaneck.
“I don’t know the candidate in the 37th,” Murphy said of Alexandra Soriano-Taveras. “I’ve read the headline of her remarks, so I don’t have a specific reaction to it, but I would just say this: This is not the time to be dividing ourselves in the us-versus-them mode.”
During a small protest over the township council’s backing an all-white leadership team Soriano-Taveras, Teaneck’s Democratic municipal chairwoman, was heard saying “boycott those businesses, including the Dunkin’ Donuts and everything else, and we hurt them in their pockets. Who owns those businesses that we continue to support on Cedar Lane?”
The comments have put the candidate in a politically precarious position that has left some Bergen Democrats questioning her viability as a candidate. Among the concerned is Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), who has represented portions of Bergen County for 18 years.
Soriano-Taveras one of only two Democrats seeking the line for Assembly in the 37th district. Both of those seats will be vacant this year as Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) mount campaigns for Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg’s (D-Teaneck) seat in the upper chamber.
Weinberg is not seeking re-election.
But while she’ll find no contest for the line, Soriano Taveras will have primary opponents. Teaneck Councilwoman Gervonn Romney Rice and Tenafly Council President Lauren Dayton are running off-the-line with Vainieri Huttle.
Johnson, who will run for Weinberg’s seat with organization support, has sought to distance himself from Soriano Taveras over the past week, though other Democrats have come to her defense.
Former Teaneck Councilman Alan Sohn, an Orthodox Jew who serves on the Democratic County Committee, on Wednesday said “Soriano-Taveras is not anti-Semitic, nor is she anti-Orthodox,” claiming the attacks against her were “smears intended to fool our Democratic leaders to undermine a qualified candidate.”
The situation could prove sticky for Murphy, who will seek re-election with organizational support — meaning on the line — this year.
It’s already proved at least a little awkward. Murphy on Wednesday declined to endorse a candidate for Senate in the 37th district.
“I know deeply both Gordon and Valerie. I’m a huge fan of each of them,” he said. “They’re both stars who are trying to each succeed one of the all-time greats in Loretta.”
He’ll be bracketed with Johnson in the primary.