The retirement of Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has set off a battle for her Senate seat between the two Assembly members in the 37th Legislative District: Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon Johnson.
Weinberg announced her decision on Jan. 13 by stating “for the first time in over 30 years, I will not be running for reelection….I’ve accomplished a lot. It added up to this is the right time for me personally.”
But Weinberg, who acknowledged the pandemic played a role in her decision by limiting what she could do, joked that “don’t think that I’m becoming complacent or compliant. I still have plenty of important priorities in the coming year.”
Mentor to Huttle
Calling her a dear friend, colleague and mentor, Vainieri Huttle said it is difficult to imagine the New Jersey legislature without Weinberg, “whose influence and leadership as Senate Majority Leader will leave an enduring impact on New Jersey.”
“Throughout her career, Senator Loretta Weinberg has been a force for progress and change,” said Vainieri Huttle in a press statement. “In addition to Sen. Weinberg’s many policy achievements, she has also earned her place as a leader in New Jersey’s women’s movement. I would like to thank Senator Weinberg for her work to lift up other women in politics, myself included.”
The assemblywoman then ticked off some of the progressive agenda legislation the two were able to pass—legislation to improve access to reproductive healthcare, pay equity, paid family leave, Port Authority Reform, gun control, advance workers’ rights and to defend the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Continuing Weinberg’s Agenda
“Most recently, I am proud to have partnered…on a comprehensive legislative package to better support sexual assault survivors in our state,” said Vainieri Huttle. “There remains so many barriers for women to break through in this field, but Sen. Weinberg has certainly done her part to open doors for New Jersey’s women.”
With much more work still remaining to help advance true equality for women, Vainieri Huttle argued the 37th Legislative District would be best served by someone with the same level of passion and commitment.
“I have looked up to Senator Weinberg throughout my career, I have learned from her and I am honored to have worked alongside her. I hope to preserve and advance her legacy,” said the Bergen County lawmaker. “Therefore, I intend to run for Senate and I intend to serve as District 37’s Senator in a way that would make Sen. Weinberg and the people of the 37th Legislative District proud.”
Johnson Jumps In
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37) announced his plan to succeed Weinberg as well, attempting to be the first Black State Senator from Bergen County.
Johnson said he valued the wisdom Weinberg provided over the past twenty years, especially on bills focused on reinvigorating the film tax credit program, enhancing law enforcement accountability, and expanding DNA testing for the wrongfully convicted.
“I am asking the county committee and elected officials of District 37 to support my nomination to the State Senate,” wrote the Englewood resident on Facebook. “I have dedicated my life to public service as a police officer, combat veteran, Bergen County Sheriff, and Assemblyman. It would be an honor to continue to serve the residents of District 37 as your Senator.”