The two candidates vying to replace State Sen. Loretta Weinberg are debating just about that: debates.
Assembly members Gordon Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle are in disagreement on how many times they should face off before Democratic voters in the 37th Legislative District cast their ballot in the June 8 primary for the State Senate race.
The issue was raised by Vainieri Huttle, who recently questioned Johnson’s decision to decline InsiderNJ.com’s request for a debate.
Democracy in Action
“Debates are democracy in action. As candidates for State Senate, we should all seize the opportunity to bring our records, plans and platforms directly to the voters,” stated Vainieri Huttle. “Gordon Johnson’s decision to refuse Insider NJ’s debate is an affront to voters, it puts his disdain for a true democratic process on full display.”
The Assemblywoman pressed her campaign’s assertions that Johnson is relying on the power of the county line and party bosses to get him elected. Vainieri Huttle along with her running mates Teaneck Councilwoman Gervonn Romney Rice and Tenafly Councilwoman Lauren Kohn Dayton are running off the county line after she withdrew from consideration for what they perceived as favoritism towards the party’s nominee.
“Unlike Gordon, I am speaking directly to voters about their concerns and my work to build a safer, stronger and more equitable Bergen County and New Jersey,” said Vainieri Huttle. “The question remains, what is Gordon Johnson so afraid of? If you believe that you are the strongest, most effective candidate for the job, why wouldn’t you seize every opportunity to prove that on the debate stage?”
“If Gordon Johnson doesn’t want to answer questions that’s fine, but then he shouldn’t be running for State Senate in the first place.”
Johnson defended his decision by pointing out the candidates have agreed to four public debates and forums already, including one scheduled for May 2 sponsored by New Jersey Globe as well as those one with Bergen Indivisible for Democracy, League of Women Voters and NJTV Chatbox.
“The (four public debates and forums) will provide ample opportunity for Valerie and I to discuss the issues facing the district and make our case to voters—in fact, that’s more than President Biden had with Trump,” stated Johnson.
The Johnson campaign characterized the request from Vainieri Huttle as more an attempt to score political points than a fight for democracy.
“It’s disheartening to see from a colleague such a baseless attack when she is well aware of the commitments to participate in multiple debates,” added the Assemblyman, who has been endorsed by Gov. Phil Murphy and the retiring Weinberg. “I look forward to sharing my progressive vision on how we can ensure a brighter future for District 37 families.”