Teaneck Democratic Municipal Chair Alexandra Soriano-Taveras has dropped her bid for State Assembly in the 37th district amid criticism that she called for a boycott of Jewish businesses at a rally last July.
Her exit from the race leaves the Bergen County Democratic organization mulling new Assembly candidates in the heavily-Democratic legislative district to add to a slate headed by Gov. Phil Murphy and State Senate candidate Gordon Johnson.
“From the moment I announced my candidacy I have been attacked by the vicious and underhanded tactics used by Jim Dunleavy, the Mayor of Teaneck, as well as members of the Teaneck Township Council, led by Deputy Mayor Elie Katz,” Soriano-Taveras stayed. “These personal attacks are baseless, libelous, and unacceptable. This smear campaign has undermined the democratic process, exactly as it was intended to.”
Soriano-Taveras said she would not “allow these baseless attacks on my character to become a distraction for the Democratic Party.”
“So, it is with a heavy heart that I withdraw my bid for State Assembly,” she said.
“Yet, I cannot allow these baseless attacks on my character to become a distraction for the Democratic Party,” So, it is with a heavy heart that I withdraw my bid for State Assembly.
The other candidate, Palisades Park Mayor Christopher Chung, withdrew on Tuesday, citing his needs to address local issues cited in a State Comptroller Report.
Since Soriano-Taveras and Chung were the only two candidates who filed to seek the Bergen Democratic organization line, party leaders will be able to essentially reopen the process to consider other candidates.
Democrats, the NJ Globe has learned, want to continue their bid to elect the first Asian American legislator from Bergen County. It’ also highly unlikely that the organization slate will not include at least one woman candidate.
Democrats had worried that the controversy surrounding Soriano-Taveras was becoming a distraction, even though some Jewish Democratic leaders rallied behind her candidacy.
Soriano-Taveras took part of a small protest last July after the Teaneck Township Council went with an all-white leadership team and rejected a bid for deputy mayor by Gervonn Romney Rice, now Soriano-Taveras’ opponent in the June primary.
She called the campaign against her a witch hunt.
“You see, I dared to publicly criticize Teaneck Council leadership for unfair and illegal practices that advanced their personal agendas, all while they ignored the needs of our diverse population,” Soriano-Taveras. “In recent weeks, Jim Dunleavy, Elie Katz and their cronies have been exposed by countless decent members of our community who have publicly denounced their false claims. It is clear that Dunleavy and Katz seek to sow hatred and to divide our community, not to unite us in common purpose.”
In the video, she was heard to say, “Boycott those businesses, including the Dunkin’ Donuts and everything else, and we hurt them in their pockets. Who owns those businesses that we continue to support on Cedar Lane?”
Teaneck Councilwoman Gervonn Romney Rice and Tenafly Councilwoman Lauren Kohn Dayton are seeking the Democratic nomination for State Assembly. They will be bracketed with Valerie Vainieri Huttle, who is challenging Johnson off the line in the Democratic Senate primary.
Johnson had distanced himself from Soriano-Taveras.
“I have a special place in my heart for all the members of the community that have publically supported me and believe in my ability to lead the LD 37 community in the State’s assembly,” she said.
The State Comptroller found that Palisades Park reimbursed some employees for personal expenses and allowed contracts and employee perks that exceeded state guidelines. They also found instances of wasteful spending, including $120,000 on gasoline charges after the borough administrator issued fuel cards to some employees and did no track the expenditures.
This story was updated at 5:58 PM with comment from Soriano-Taveras.