Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) announced support for abolishing organizational lines Wednesday in a reversal of a stance she claimed in a debate a little more than two weeks ago.
“In the face of voter suppression efforts around the country, New Jersey can and should be a leader in expanding pathways to democracy, not limiting them,” she said in a statement posted to Twitter. “New Jersey’s county-line system is simply not democratic, and it disproportionately impacts candidates who are women and people of color.”
Vainieri Huttle is mounting an off-the-line bid against her longtime running mate, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood), to succeed Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck).
She railed against the Bergen County Democratic Organization earlier this year, claiming Chairman Paul Juliano had preordained Johnson for the line, which awards candidates a preferential ballot position. Johnson’s name, for example, will appear beneath Gov. Phil Murphy’s in next month’s primaries.
In a May 2 debate hosted by the New Jersey Globe, Vainieri Huttle declined to rule out running for office on organizational lines in the future and said she would not abolish the line.
The practice has been a target for progressives in recent years. They argue the line protects incumbents and centralizes power with party leaders, discouraging primary challenges or making them non-competitive.
Many of those groups, including the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, have aligned themselves with Vainieri Huttle’s campaign.
“I am proud to be joining my colleagues in standing up for meaningful change to improve transparency and democracy in New Jersey,” the assemblywoman said.