A.C. ‘incumbents’ get Democratic county line in primary
Calling it the “hardest decision” he’s ever had to make, Atlantic County Democratic Committee Chairman Michael Suleiman informed Atlantic City municipal candidates Thursday that the two incumbents will be awarded the party line in July’s primary.
Mayor Marty Small Sr. and 2nd Ward Councilwoman LaToya Dunston have been authorized to bracket with Democratic county candidates July 7.
Suleiman’s decision is in contrast to the endorsement of the Atlantic City Democratic Committee, which voted in April to support Pamela Thomas-Fields. The city committee endorsed Dunston over challenger Delmar Hamilton.
“Party politics aside, one of the most important things for Atlantic City as we grapple with the coronavirus and the dire economic impact of the casino closings is continuity in government,” Suleiman wrote to the candidates.
City Democratic Committee Chairwoman Gwendolyn Callaway-Lewis did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday.
Both Small and Dunston are in their respective positions as a result of former Mayor Frank Gilliam’s abrupt resignation in October following a guilty plea to wire fraud in federal court. Small, who was council president and 2nd Ward representative, was sworn in as mayor and Dunston was selected to fill his vacant seat.
The candidates for Atlantic City mayor and 2nd Ward council are seeking a one-year unexpired term that will run from Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2021.
The county chairman explained that elected officials serving unexpired terms have historically been treated as incumbents, and therefore are entitled to consideration when running for reelection.
“While I respect the input from Atlantic City’s municipal committee, which I deferred to in the 2018 and 2019 elections, the fact remains that regardless of what happens in the primary election this July and the general election this November, the voters of Atlantic City will once again go back to the polls next year to determine who will serve the full four-year terms for mayor and Ward 2 Council, respectively,” he said in the letter.
Suleiman went on to say that he would not insert himself into the primary and would “remain neutral.”
“I will obviously commit to supporting the winners of the primary, whoever they are, and doing everything I can to make sure they are victorious in November,” he said.
Small, Thomas-Fields and James Whitehead are seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor. Republican Thomas Forkin is running unopposed.
Dunston and Hamilton are the only two candidates seeking to represent the 2nd Ward.