ENGLEWOOD – Gordon Johnson is going door-to-door on Windsor Road – one of those treasured political rites for any candidate.
With him is Anthony Cureton, who is the Bergen County sheriff, a key supporter, and a neighborhood resident to boot. So, this is destined to be a friendly audience.
Voting for Johnson is a “done deal,” one young man said shortly after the candidate knocked on his door.
It’s all good, but standing outside another house – no one was home at this one – Johnson admitted he’s not really used to this. He said most of his past campaigns have involved a “few lawn signs” and not much more than that.
Not this year.
Assemblyman Johnson and his Assembly colleague Valerie Huttle are battling for the Democratic state Senate nomination in LD-37 covering eastern and northern Bergen County. In this very Democratic district, the primary winner on June 8 is virtually guaranteed to win the seat in November and replace the retiring Loretta Weinberg.
Both Johnson and Huttle have similar voting records. So, like many primaries, this one is about personality and style more than ideology.
Since the campaign’s beginning, Huttle has portrayed herself as a candidate who works hard for any number of traditional party constituencies – women, the disabled, unions and the poor. She suggests that Johnson, who has the backing of party leaders, is merely a tool of the establishment and a man who votes “yes” on key issues, but doesn’t do much more than that.
That charge is “a nice piece of fiction,” Johnson said Tuesday afternoon as he headed to Windsor Road.
A bit later, Johnson, a one-time city police officer, was asked about the charge that he’s too close to the state’s Democratic power brokers.
“The Democratic party is backing me,” he said, contending that organization support means party members back him, not just leadership.
He added, “I have support from people statewide – legislators from both sides of the aisle.”
In an apparent dig at Huttle, Johnson said he gets lots of support because he’s able to engage with and build a rapport with people.
To that end, Johnson was quick to make jokes as he visited about a dozen homes in the neighborhood.
As he handed out his brochure, he reminded people that, “I’m the guy in the middle.” There’s no mystery here; Johnson is pictured in the middle of his two female, Assembly running-mates.
Prior to campaigning, Johnson hosted a small round table discussion at a Teaneck bakery about promoting minority-operated businesses. His audience included those involved in real estate, the food industry, cosmetics and medicine.
The group agreed that one problem is that many black businesses don’t have a “bench,” meaning older relatives and friends available to help with capital.
Johnson was pointedly asked, what he could do about that?
“I’m doing it now – listening,” he said, adding that he can make sure fledgling business owners know about various state economic development programs that can help them.
An hour or so later when Johnson wrapped up his sojourn along Windsor Road, he talked about the uncertainty of primaries of this type when turning out your voters is critical.
“I really don’t know how I’m doing,” Johnson said. “That’s why I keep running to the end.”