A woman who accused Assemblyman Gordon Johnson of sexually harassing her rebuked Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle for leveraging those accusations in her campaign for State Senate.
Paul has accused Johnson of propositioning her during a private 2008 meeting. She said the assemblyman offered her advancement in Englewood’s local politics if she were to become his “concubine.” Johnson has denied the accusation, saying he did not recall the meeting.
“I like to think that skill and my intellect rather than my sexuality will get me where I need to go,” Dierdre Paul said in a May 7 Facebook post. “Each time there’s even the intimation that I have to depend on keeping in some man’s good graces to serve in a different capacity, I am insulted and hurt.”
The Assemblywoman has leveraged Paul’s accusations against Johnson more than once during their respective campaigns to succeed Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Englewood) in the legislature’s upper chamber. Weinberg is not seeking re-election this year.
Vainieri Huttle raised the issue during a New Jersey Globe Debate held earlier this month and has pushed it in multiple press releases sent out after Politico New Jersey first reported Paul’s allegations.
“I want you to hear how I am affected each time you use my story for your own political advantage and reinforce negative stereotypes that Black women are often willing to be used by the White, political establishment (even if it is for the purpose of disparaging Black men) for mere trinkets and a little media attention that wouldn’t be offered to a thinking person,” Paul said on Facebook.
The backlash could prove a political peril for Vainieri Huttle, who is running for Weinberg’s seat off-the-line with support from some of the state’s progressive groups.
She did not immediately return a 9:13 a.m. call and text message seeking comment.
Facing a candidate with organizational support and a swath of endorsements from some of New Jersey’s most prominent Democrats, including Weinberg, Gov. Phil Murphy and the Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano, Vainieri Huttle late last month turned to attacks over the alleged incident.
She called for the assemblyman to “stop dodging questions” over the alleged incident while burnishing her own record on issues related to sexual assault.
Paul, a longtime professor at Montclair State University who joined the Republican Party years after the alleged incident, has taken issue with that, charging the assemblywoman’s attacks have minimized her accomplishments.
“Any man with whom I have regular contact or I have actually loved will tell you that I am fiercely independent and want to do everything on my own merits,” she said. “But, you know this, as well, because gossip (linked to you) about me & involving a romantic relationship I had for 5 years made me a target in a union that I had previously served well.”