Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) attacked Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) over outside spending in their race to succeed Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) in the upper chamber Thursday.
“The dark money groups, the political IE’s and South Jersey power bosses know that they can’t buy me, so they are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in dark money into Johnson’s campaign,” she said. “Here’s the facts: while I am fighting for transparency in government, Gordon Johnson is being propped up by South Jersey party bosses.”
American Democratic Majority, a super PAC that has ties to South Jersey Democrats and that is funded by the New Jersey Education Association, has launched a televised attack against Huttle over her 2003 opposition to a 2003 Republican pay-to-play law proposal.
A previous ad launched by the group touted Gov. Phil Murphy’s endorsement of Johnson’s campaign.
The assemblyman’s campaign said Huttle’s attack played into racist tropes but said little about the outside spending.
“It’s hard to fathom why Huttle’s ‘progressive’ campaign continues to pedal this overtly racist narrative: that a Black man, running to be the first ever Black State Senator from Bergen County, is the puppet of white bosses,” Johnson campaign manager Storm Wyche said. “Assemblyman Johnson has a history of fierce independence.”
The contest in the 37th district has grown increasingly acrid over recent weeks. Vainieri Huttle has attacked Johnson over allegations he made inappropriate comments to Dierdre Paul, who was active in Englewood politics at the time.
Johnson, meanwhile, has been mostly content to sit back and let outside groups mount their own offensives.
“The most important and troubling question is this, why are these dark money groups funding Johnson’s campaign and what do they expect in return?” Vainieri Huttle said. “This election should be decided by the voters of District 37, South Jersey party bosses and special interests should not be trying to influence our election.”
Johnson has the Bergen County line, which brings a preferential ballots position, along with the endorsements of Weinberg and Gov. Phil Murphy.
But his campaign isn’t resting on those advantages in the face of Huttle’s latest attack.
“The fact is, Johnson has the vast support of the grassroots democrats in Bergen County because he has spent his life in service to this community,” Wyche said. “To shamelessly misrepresent reality for your own political gain and claim he is only in this position because the bosses put him there is disgraceful, offensive, and fundamentally racist.”