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Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe.

Hameeduddin, Sokolich won’t rule out challenge to Weinberg

Murphy uses mayors from Majority Leader’s district to push for millionaire’s tax

By Nikita Biryukov, June 03 2019 2:34 pm

Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin and Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich refused to rule out a primary challenge to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg in 2021.

“She’ll be 87 years old. I really hope somebody challenges her,” Hameeduddin told the New Jersey Globe on Monday. “I’m not saying I will or I wouldn’t. I’m sure that there would be a lot of people that would step up at that point. I haven’t even spoken to my wife about it, so I couldn’t tell you if I ruled it out or even ruled it in.”

The two mayors, along with Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse, appeared next to Gov. Phil Murphy during a press conference pushing the latter’s proposal for a millionaire’s tax.

Murphy’s choice to appear in Weinberg’s legislative district and include the three mayors is likely an attempt to exert pressure on Weinberg, a close ally of Senate President Steve Sweeney and a powerful voice in the legislature.

Sokolich’s declination to rule out a run was a bit more muted than that of his Teaneck counterpart.

“In politics, I don’t think you can ever permanently rule something in or rule something out,” Sokolich said. “But as I sit here before you today, I’m very happy where I am, and I’m running in November.”

Labrosse was the only one of the three to rule out a challenge to one of the state’s top Democrats.

“I would say I’ve ruled it out. I have no aspirations to further my political career,” he said. I’m happy doing what I’m doing here … Right now, I have no aspirations. Down the road — 21’s pretty close, I still have a lot of work to do here. Senator’s not my goal, not one of them.”

The mayors standing with Murphy today represent the three largest municipalities in the 37th legislative district, which Weinberg represents.

Together, the towns account for roughly half of the district’s population.

Seven other Democratic mayors did not attend Murphy’s event.

Weinberg and Hameeduddin have been longtime political rivals in Teaneck, where the senator launched her political career as an activist and councilwoman and remains extraordinarily popular.

In 2017, Weinberg received more votes than Murphy in Teaneck and in Fort Lee.

Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have long said they opposed a millionaire’s tax.

They have pledged repeatedly to not raise taxes in the coming year’s budget.

So far, Murphy’s proposal for a millionaire’s tax has the clear support of four state senators, Ronald Rice (D-Newark), Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence), Brian Stack (D-Union City) and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland).

State Sen. Nellie Pou on Monday told the New Jersey Globe she would vote in favor of a millionaire’s tax if a bill was posted, but it’s not clear if that translates to support for Murphy’s budget proposals.

Even if it does, Murphy would still be short 16 votes in the legislature’s upper chamber.

Assembly members Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City), Annette Chapparro (D-Hoboken), John McKeon (D-West Orange), Mila Jasey (D-South Orange), Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley), Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange), Benjie Wimberly (D-Paterson), Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) and Assembly Majority Conference Leader Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson) have signed on to back the proposal.

He needs 32 more votes to hit the magic number in the Assembly.

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