Home>Highlight>Unions, progressive groups boost Huttle’s ground game

Civil rights leader Steven Goldstein with Gervonn Romney Rice, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Lauren Dayton at a GOTV rally on June 5, 2021. (Photo: Steven Goldstein via Twitter.)

Unions, progressive groups boost Huttle’s ground game

By Nikita Biryukov, June 05 2021 7:58 pm

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) has moved her primary campaign into its final stages, her focus falling on door-knocking in an effort to outrun her onetime running mate for Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg’s (D-Teaneck) Senate seat.

On Saturday morning, her campaign launched 53 canvassers from their Englewood headquarters, the volunteer ranks boosted by union officials from Communications Workers of America Local 1037, Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and members of Healthcare Professionals and Allied Employees.

That’s on top of whatever the New Jersey Working Families Alliance and its state director, anti-line activist Sue Altman, can muster to get out the vote for Huttle, whose campaign intends to continue their door-knocking operation through election day.

“This campaign is powered by the people. We are going to win this for the people, not only of district 37 but for the people of New Jersey,” Huttle said at the canvass launch. “We are going to continue that progressive movement and be the champions for all of us who are here today.”

Huttle and her longtime running mate, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood), are both running to succeed Weinberg, who is not seeking re-election this year.

Johnson moves into the race’s closing days with a favorable ballot position afforded by the Bergen County line and endorsements from some of the state’s most prominent Democrats, including Weinberg and Gov. Phil Murphy.

Huttle’s backers are mainly progressive groups, including Garden State Equality. Steven Goldstein, the group’s founder, serves as one of her campaign co-chairs.

But progressives see advantages in the assemblywoman’s off-the-line campaign unavailable to challengers elsewhere in the state.

Incumbency is the obvious one. Huttle has held her seat in the legislature since 2006, and she served five years on the county’s freeholder board before that. The length of that tenure brings name recognition that will likely help offset the boost Johnson gets from his position on the Bergen County line.

She also isn’t without financial resources. Nearly half of the $322,269 she reported raising through May 7 came from a $151,000 personal loan she made to her campaign. That’s not far off from the $185,152 Johnson and his running mates reported in 29-day pre-primary reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

It’s not clear how the fundraising race will shake out in 11-day pre-primary reports due for release on Monday, though Johnson has benefitted from an undisclosed amount of independent spending made by Stronger Foundations, a super PAC with ties to Operating Engineers Local 825.

Each candidate is fielding their own slates for Assembly. Huttle tapped Teaneck Councilwoman Gervonn Romney Rice and Tenafly Councilwoman Lauren Kohn Dayton, while Johnson’s team includes former Tenafly Councilwoman Shama Haider and former Englewood Cliffs Councilwoman Ellen Park.

The New Jersey Globe attempted to cover a visit to a Hackensack vaccination site Johnson was set to make at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, but that fell through because the assemblyman was expected to arrive an hour behind schedule, if not more.

His campaign declined to make Johnson available by phone in the evening, citing Saturday’s scorching heat and the extent of Johnson’s campaigning that day.

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