This article was updated with comment from Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle at 12:36 p.m.
An independent expenditure group with ties to South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross launched a new ad attacking Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) over non-support of a pay-to-play proposal nearly two decades ago.
Script: For 25 years, the party bosses backed Valerie Huttle and Huttle opposed efforts to ban pay-to-play corruption in Bergen County. Huttle’s family cashed in on her influence and made a fortune from no-bid government contracts.
In other words, they got rich off your money. Now, Huttle pretends to be a reformer. You gotta be kidding me. No wonder both Phil Murphy and Loretta Weinberg support Gordon Johnson for Senate.
The ads attack references a story in the Bergen record from October 26, 2003. Vainieri Huttle, then the county freeholder chairwoman, told the Record she would not support an ordinance barring individuals and businesses who hold public contracts in Bergen County from making campaign contributions, a proposal backed her Republican opponents.
Vainieri Huttle is now running against Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) to succeed Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), who is not seeking re-election this year.
The assemblywoman charged the ad mischaracterized her record.
“Gordon Johnson’s dark money groups are looking to smear me on my work in 2003 to enact stronger pay-to-play regulations in Bergen County, criticizing me for not simply accepting a watered-down bill that the Republican Party was seeking to pass,” she said. “The reality is, I showed true leadership, calling on the Freeholder Board to make the regulations stronger and more effective, I wasn’t willing to just take things at face value, I wanted to fight for real, progressive change.”
She also repeated an call for Johnson to disavow outside spending in the race.
State law bars independent expenditure groups and campaigns from coordinating.
“If we are going to talk about the issue of character in this race, it’s Gordon Johnson who should be answering to these concerns, he’s the one being propped up by South Jersey party bosses trying to buy this election,” she said. “So, once again, I call on Gordon Johnson to denounce these baseless claims, I’m calling on Gordon Johnson to call on his dark money Super PAC’s to stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to lie about my character.”
Johnson has the Bergen County line in the increasingly acrid contest, though Vainieri Huttle has the edge in fundraising.
The ad was launched by American Democratic Majority, a super PAC associated with South Jersey’s machine Democrats and funded by a $1.25 million dollar donation from the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.