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Atlantic City Democrats pick Thomas-Fields over Mayor Small
breaking top story

Atlantic City Democrats pick Thomas-Fields over Mayor Small

Atlantic City

From left, Pamela Thomas-Fields, Mayor Marty Small Sr. and Gwendolyn Callaway-Lewis during a 2019 meeting of the Atlantic City Democratic Committee.

{child_flags:top_story}{child_flags:breaking}A.C. Dems pick Thomas-Fields over Mayor Small

{child_byline}DAVID DANZIS

Staff Writer

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ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City Democratic Committee selected its preferred candidates for mayor and council during a teleconference meeting Monday night, an unorthodox action necessitated by social distancing measures because of the new coronavirus.

The city Democratic Committee voted 20-3 in favor of endorsing Pamela Thomas-Fields over incumbent Mayor Marty Small Sr. in the upcoming primary election.

The committee also selected 2nd Ward Councilwoman LaToya Dunston over Delmar Hamilton.

Small, Thomas-Fields and James Whitehead are all seeking the Democratic nomination to fill the one-year unexpired term left by the abrupt resignation of Frank Gilliam Jr. Republican Thomas Forkin is also running for the one-year term.

Thomas-Fields said she was “thrilled” to have the support of the Atlantic City Democrats. But Small, who earned the committee’s support last year to succeed Gilliam, said Monday night’s process was flawed, while Whitehead suggested he was not given a fair shake.

Committee Chairwoman Gwendolyn Callaway-Lewis said some members were not comfortable with the voting process because they were asked to text their selection to her, thereby eliminating anonymity. But, Callaway-Lewis said members’ votes were as “confidential as could possibly be” given the circumstances.

“I was very comfortable with it,” she said. “I tried to give everybody a fair opportunity to express themselves.”

A May 12 special election on changing the city’s form of government could make the political endorsements a moot point. If the citywide referendum passes, all 10 of the current elected officials — the mayor and nine council members — would be removed from office and a special election to select five new representatives would be held.

All of the nominees for Atlantic City mayor oppose the change of government, which would replace the current mayor-council format with a council-manager structure. Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the May 12 special election be conducted entirely through mail-in ballots to reduce the potential spread of the new coronavirus at polling locations.

Callaway-Lewis said Thomas-Fields was “the best person for the job.”

“This is crucial. Not only for my campaign, but for the May 12 change-of-government referendum,” Thomas-Fields said in a statement Tuesday. “Now is the time to come together as a community to protect ourselves from any threat to our livelihoods, whether that’s a takeover of our municipal government or the outbreak of a contagious virus.”

Small called the committee voting process an “unadulterated joke” and said the results “were expected” when reached for comment Tuesday.

“We’re operating under a crisis right now, (so) I’m not worried about that,” Small said. “We’ll deal with that election in June, July, August, whenever it is, and the people are going to speak loud and they’re going to speak clear. Because, at the end of the day, they know I love Atlantic City and they know that we’ve done a great job.”

The primary is currently scheduled for June 2.

In a statement Tuesday, Whitehead also questioned the timing of the endorsements against the backdrop of the citywide referendum, saying the special election’s defeat was “much more important.” He also implied that the committee excluded him from legitimate consideration.

“At a time when Atlantic City’s constitutional voting rights are being challenged by the change-of-government referendum, and Atlantic City millennials and young voters are apathetic about the status quo, the same old individuals and shenanigans with shady-looking deals behind closed doors is not the way to grow Atlantic City’s bright future,” he said. “Atlantic City’s Democratic Committee had an opportunity to show our young people a better way of transparently managing the endorsement process, which I believe they failed.”

The Atlantic County Democratic Committee will have the final say on which candidate gets the party line.

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Contact: 609-272-7222

ddanzis@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressDanzis

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Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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