The political arm of New Jersey’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization backed Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) for Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg’s seat Thursday.
“Garden State Equality believes there is no better ally, no better champion of equality for the LGBTQ community to carry on the work and legacy of Senator Loretta Weinberg than Vainieri Huttle,” the Garden State Equality Action Fund board said in a statement.
Weinberg on Wednesday announced her intent to retire at the end of her term, bringing an end to what will be a 30-year career in the legislature.
Vainieri Huttle, currently serving her eighth term in the lower chamber, announced her intent to run for the seat Wednesday afternoon.
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) is also expected to seek the seat. The two lawmakers will face off at Bergen County Democrats’ March convention, where they’ll award an all-important organizational line.
“Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle is not just our friend, but she has been the prime sponsor of many recent LGBTQ bills and her support for our community dates back to a time when associating with the LGBTQ community was not necessarily viewed as the right thing to do and in fact even shunned,” the board said.
Last year, Vainieri Huttle sponsored bills requiring hospitals to report demographic data on sexual orientation and gender identity related to COVID-19 infections and creating protections for LGBTQ long-term care center residents.
The endorsement is unusual for the group, which has tended to steer clear of intra-party contests.
Huttle, they said, is a special case.
“The Assemblywoman’s dedication to improving the lives of LGBTQ people is so clear and so constant that it is simply impossible for us not to shout loudly and proudly that we want to see her in the State Senate,” the board said.