Anti-semitic comments made by Assembly candidate Alexandra Soriano-Taveras are raising questions about whether her candidacy should move forward by state lawmakers.
“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?” Soriano-Taveras is heard to say in the video from last year in a story first reported by The Jewish Link.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) stated he found Soriano-Tavaras’ comments “reprehensible.”
“What she said was a not-so-veiled anti-Semitic trope,” Schaer told The Jewish Link. “I am extremely distraught that this is happening, especially in a municipality like Teaneck.”
Gov. Phil Murphy, who said he does not know Soriano-Taveras, weighed in on the subject when asked March 3.
“I would just say this: this is not a time to be dividing ourselves in the us versus them mode,” said Murphy. “We just came out of a four-year federal administration that did that for a living. The last thing we need in the most diverse state in the union is for us to be pitting one community against another, and that includes anti-Semitism or whatever else is implied in this.”
The issue has arisen in response to comments Soriano-Taveras made at a protest in July 2020 after the Teaneck Township Council went with an all-white leadership team, stating the town’s leadership “once again was not listening to the voices of our community.”
While claiming the comments were taken out of context, Soriano-Taveras offered an apology on March 1, reading in part “It was not my intention to offend anyone by my statement or to single out any community and for that, I am sincerely sorry. In a moment of passion, I urged those in attendance not to shop in the businesses owned by town leadership, but after more thought and careful consideration of the impact on our small businesses, I took no such action and led no such effort.”
“Let me be clear: I love our Jewish community, I treasure the contributions my Jewish neighbors make to Teaneck and to the world, and I have always and will always stand up against anti-Semitism,” she said.
Soriano-Taveras is slated to run on a ticket with Assemblyman Gordon Johnson for State Senate and Palisades Park Mayor Christopher Chung for Assembly in the Democratic primary. She made the comments last Summer in support of Gervonn Romney-Rice—who is now running on Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle’s ticket for the same Assembly seat along with Tenafly Council President Lauren Dayton.
Johnson, while noting his displeasure, did not call for Soriano-Taveras’ to leave the race. Instead, he passed any decision on to the Bergen County Democratic Committee (BCDC) due to the filing date to run in the organization’s having passed.
“I am not happy that she chose those words, period,” said Johnson. “I am looking for coordination and guidance, but the selection process is not done by me, so I am looking to see how they are going to handle this situation.”
The role of the BCDC comes days after its chairman Paul Juliano disputed the claims by Vainieri Huttle that he favored Johnson for the county line to be the Democratic nominee for State Senate. Juliano alleged it was Vainieri Huttle who asked him to intervene after it became clear Johnson had secured the support of a majority of the district’s delegates.
“Despite reinforcing my position that I would not be issuing an endorsement before delegates had an opportunity to cast their votes, you still pressed me to interject on your behalf and stated that I could change the outcome of the convention in your favor,” wrote Juliano in his letter responding to Vainieri Huttle’s announcement to forego the county convention.
“The hypocrisy of suggesting that I anoint you as the preferred candidate, the exact thing you claim to be fighting against, is staggering,” he added. “The truth is, I was unwilling to endorse either of you as the preferred candidate prior to the convention.”
Juliano released the letter so he could “set the record straight” regarding the nomination process for the open Senate seat in District 37 created by the retirement of State Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
“While I respect your choice, I am deeply troubled by your nefariously dishonest accusations, misrepresentations of the facts and seemingly deliberate omissions,” wrote Juliano. “All of which strike me as being politically calculated.”
The chairman said the BCDC had worked diligently to ensure a “fair, open, and inclusive process” for the candidates to make their case directly to the more than 350 party delegates in District 37 and allow members to select the candidate of their choosing. The convention is conducted by secret ballot, allowing delegates to vote their consensus absent outside influence.
Juliano acknowledges that when it became clear to him that Johnson would win the organization’s nomination, he hoped the party could find a way to avoid a fight and reiterated his unconditional support for Vainieri Huttle for the Assembly—going as far as working to dissuade candidates from running for her seat.
“As a matter of fact, in the interest of unity, when other candidates came forward and expressed interest in pursuing the seat, I made it clear to them that you had my support, and I would not pressure you to make a decision any sooner than you were ready to do so,” he said. “I am disappointed by your baseless accusations that our nomination process is anything other than as open and fair as possible.”
The chairman even made a veiled comparison between Assemblywoman and the most recent former President of the United States.
“We have seen over the past year, the devastating consequences of Donald Trump’s unfounded attacks on the integrity of our Democratic processes,” the chairman commented. “Democrats in Bergen County deserve and expect better. Our commitment to these values is the foundation upon which we fight for a better future for our families.”