LEONIA – Judah Zeigler, the mayor of this Bergen County town, was preparing to knock on some doors Saturday morning with LD-37 state Senate candidate Valerie Huttle.
When asked about Huttle’s Democratic primary opponent, fellow Assembly member Gordon Johnson, Zeigler described him as friendly and affable.
At Huttle headquarters in Englewood, some campaign volunteers said the same thing – Johnson is a nice guy who is pleasant to be around.
If you are waiting for the “But,” here it is.
These same supporters contend that Johnson is a follower and Huttle is a leader.
Sure, they may vote the same way, but Huttle creates and advocates for much legislation favored by progressives; all Johnson does is vote yes.
That is the Huttle camp’s central argument in a primary that will determine who replaces retiring state Sen. Loretta Weinberg in this very Democratic district.
Johnson certainly has the advantage – at least on paper. He is the candidate blessed by the Bergen County Democratic organization, Gov. Phil Murphy and Weinberg herself.
This means a better ballot position and also more campaign cash. An informal count shows that Johnson already has dispatched 12 mailings to five for Huttle. Campaign finance reports become available next week.
How do you combat that?
On this day, Huttle stood in her campaign headquarters and gave a pep talk to a team of canvassers, many of whom wore shirts identifying themselves as members of CWA Local 1037. (InsiderNJ has also requested to spend time with the Johnson campaign).
Visiting voters herself in Leonia a few minutes later, Huttle said she wanted to take her 15 years of advocacy in the Assembly to the Senate.
When one resident, Karen Peters, indicated she would vote for Huttle, the candidate said, “I appreciate your support, I really do.”
At another home, Huttle told resident Jill Kantor what appears to be one of her central beliefs.
“I’ve always been an advocate for people who don’t have voices,” she said, referring to the poor and the disabled.
Going door-to-door offers no guarantee of acceptance, even if, as in this case, you’re only visiting Democrats. People are not always home. You can be greeted by an unfriendly dog.
On that score, this foray was a success.
“No one slammed a door in my face,” Huttle said.
In a more serious vein, Zeigler pointed out Huttle has gotten a lot of endorsements from such liberal groups as Emily’s List and the Sierra Club. He reasoned that’s a good sign, because such organizations don’t usually endorse candidates who are running “off-line.”
Back at headquarters, Steve Goldstein, who became known in New Jersey as the head of Garden State Equality, was praising Huttle’s penchant for independent thought and action, which he said makes her much like the legendary Weinberg, the woman she wants to replace.
He said that’s a problem for party bosses who are more comfortable with someone who just goes along.
Guess we’ll find out how voters feel about this on June 8.