“Governor Murphy supports me!”
So proclaimed Gordon Johnson Wednesday night near the end of his League of Women Voters debate with fellow Assembly member Valerie Huttle.
It was said a bit out of context.
However, more to the point, it quickly demonstrated the parameters of the Johnson-Huttle primary to replace state Sen. Loretta Weinberg in Bergen County’s heavily Democratic LD-37.
Johnson has the governor, Weinberg herself and various other power brokers on his side.
Huttle says she’s more capable of thinking for herself and what’s more, she initiates legislation.
“I just don’t show up to cast my vote,” she said.
The point is that while Johnson and Huttle generally have the same progressive voting record, it is Huttle who does most of the dirty work to shape bills and get them approved.
The debate was polite, almost dull. Part of this had to do with the format. The League’s debate rules tend to be rigid. Spontaneous chatter and retorts are not allowed.
A few hours before the debate, Huttle released a sharply-worded statement criticizing Legislative leaders for delaying passage of the Reproductive Freedom Act, which among other things, aims to protect abortion rights in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Huttle said in the release that these are the same “bosses” who are spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on Johnson’s campaign.
“While Gordon Johnson continues to fold to the establishment, I continue to fight them,” the statement added.
When the reproductive freedom act came up for discussion at the debate, Johnson said simply that he supports it.
Huttle said she wants to see it passed, but “leadership is stalling.”
On another issue, Johnson took a swipe at Huttle’s liberal credentials when he said she was hesitant on backing legalized recreational marijuana.
Huttle didn’t necessarily dispute that, but said she was concerned about the health effects of pot.
The candidates were also asked about redistricting, which will soon occur in light of the 2020 Census. Generally speaking, this sparks a political fight between the parties and the “gerrymandering” of districts into odd configurations.
One way to reform the process is to replace the politicians with technology.
Neither candidate went there.
Huttle said redistricting should not be led by “party bosses.”
Johnson said New Jersey’s system is pretty good, but without being specific, added, “more can be done.”