Pushing back on statements that said the Bergen County Democratic convention process was preordained, county chairman Paul Juliano is accusing Valerie Vainieri Huttle of creating a fake narrative to justify her lack of support among party leaders.
“I am deeply troubled by your nefariously dishonest accusations, misrepresentations of the facts and seemingly deliberate omissions, all of which strike me as being politically calculated,” Juliano told Vainieri Huttle in a Thursday morning letter.
Vainieri Huttle announced this week that she would not seek the endorsement of the Bergen County Democratic Convention next month and instead would mount an off the line bid
for the 37th district State Senate nomination in the June 8 primary election.
Huttle told Juliano on Tuesday that “it became clear that the decks had been stacked in favor of my opponent.”
“Despite your promises that you would remain a neutral party, I have heard again and again that you are behind Gordon Johnson,” Huttle wrote. “It has been blatantly obvious that you have been pulling the strings behind the scenes.”
Juliano strongly disputes Vainieri Huttle’s claim, saying that he told the eight-term assemblywoman that Johnson, the Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore, appeared to have secured enough votes to win the convention based on publicly-announced endorsements
According to Juliano, he told Vainieri Huttle that he would not issue a pre-convention endorsement and asserts that she pressed him to back her, saying that the county chairman “could change the outcome of the convention in your favor.”
“The hypocrisy of suggesting that I anoint you as the preferred candidate, the exact thing you claim to be fighting against, is staggering,” Juliano said. “The truth is, I was unwilling to endorse either of you as the preferred candidate prior to the convention.”
Vainieri Huttle alleged that Democratic officials in Hackensack and Fort Lee were forced to endorse Johnson, even though they told her she was their personal choice
“Arm twisting has never yielded a fair outcome –nor a good one,” Vainieri Huttle said. “It certainly is not now.”
Juliano chalked up Vainieri Huttle’s criticisms to sour grapes.
“I can only surmise that because you did not expect to have the votes at the convention you decided to take your ball and go home,” he told her. “I also understand that its politically advantageous to attack me and the process rather than the potential first African American Senator in Bergen County’s history, someone who is also the senior member of the Assembly delegation.”
Juliano confirmed that he sought to avoid a primary fight and pledged his “unconditional support” for her to continue in the State Assembly.
Two candidates had already announced their bids to run for the Assembly: Palisades Park Mayor Christopher Chung and Teaneck Democratic Municipal Chair Alexandria Soriano-Tavares.
“I never questioned your legislative accomplishments and hoped that you would not give up your Assembly seat,” said Juliano, said he told other potential candidates that he would back an incumbent for re-election to the Assembly if the Senate fight was settled and would not pressure Vainieri Huttle to make a decision “any sooner than you were ready to do so.”
What appears to have offended Juliano the most was Vainieri Huttle’s “baseless accusation” that the party’s nomination process was rigged.
“We have seen over the past year, the devastating consequences of Donald Trump’s unfounded attacks on the integrity of our Democratic processes,” Juliano said. “Democrats in Bergen County deserve and expect better.
Juliano appeared to leave the door open to patching things up in the future.
“There are things bigger than politics, and in these trying times, I wish you and your family good health,” he told Vainieri Huttle.