ATLANTIC CITY — The Democratic mayoral primary intensified this week after Councilman Frank Gilliam’s campaign attacked Council President Marty Small on his arrest record.
With two weeks to go until the primary, Gilliam’s campaign sent mailers to residents highlighting charges Small has faced over the years, including for drug distribution in 1993 and arson in 2005. Those charges were eventually dropped. Small has never been convicted of a crime.
“Marty Small’s checkered past is bad for Atlantic City’s future,” reads the Gilliam campaign mailer, which looks like a criminal case file. “Marty Small’s legal troubles go back decades.”
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Gilliam and a campaign representative did not return calls for comment.
Small accused Gilliam Wednesday of trying to distract voters from the issues and emphasized he was never convicted of the charges. He said great leaders in history have faced adversity and cited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was arrested.
“It’s easy to accuse people of a crime, but convicting someone is another story,” he said. “All I’ve ever done and wanted to do is serve the people of Atlantic City no matter what adversity I’ve gone through.”
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In 1993, Small was charged with manufacturing and distributing cocaine and heroin in a school zone, according to court records. Those charges were dismissed, the records show.
“I was in high school. I drove someone’s car that I shouldn’t have been driving and the car had drugs in it,” Small said. “I’ve never sold a gun or dealt drugs a day in my life, and everyone knows that.”
Small was charged with an arson offense in 2005, according to court records. Those charges were also dropped. Small said he couldn’t recall an incident that led to the charge.
“Arrested for arson?” he said. “I’ve never set anything on fire.”
Gilliam’s mailer also lists a 2005 perjury charge that stemmed from the first time Small was indicted on ballot-fraud charges. Small was twice indicted for voter fraud but was acquitted of all charges both times.
A super political action committee supporting Gilliam, called “Our Atlantic City,” has posted videos online that attack Small on 14 charges he’s faced from 1993 to 2009, including an assault charge in 1999 that was also dismissed.
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“Initially we could not believe that Mr. Small’s arrest record was so extensive,” the super PAC said in a statement. “Our Atlantic City believes that Mr. Small is uniquely unqualified to lead our city towards a brighter future.”
Small said he will let Gilliam’s campaign and the super PAC “continue to slander me.” He then attacked Gilliam as a “Manchurian, special interests candidate” who voted against city proposals to avoid a state takeover.
Small’s campaign spokesman, Walter Fields, said the Gilliam advertisement “speaks to how Gilliam has been running a campaign that’s been in the gutter.”
“It’s an attempt to slur Marty’s name in a community he has worked diligently to represent,” Fields said.
Gilliam, Small, substitute teacher Fareed Abdullah and U.S. Navy veteran Jimmy Whitehead are running in the Democratic mayoral primary. The winner will face Republican incumbent Mayor Don Guardian in the November general election.
Gilliam’s ad tells residents to “Vote No on Marty Small” but doesn’t tell them when. Primary election day is June 6.