ATLANTIC CITY — Marty Small Sr. will have to wait a little longer to learn whether he will retain his position as mayor or whether challengers Pamela Thomas-Fields or Jimmy Whitehead were able to garner the votes to unseat him.
With only about 1,000 votes counted as of 9:30 p.m., Small had 643, about 60%, with Thomas-Fields getting 362 and Whitehead 58. Numbers from the 2nd Ward council race were unavailable.
The 2020 primary election was conducted almost entirely by mail to prevent crowds from gathering at polling locations during the coronavirus pandemic. Six in-person polling locations were open in Atlantic City for voters to cast provisional ballots.
More than 14,000 ballots were mailed to registered voters in Atlantic City.
In the final days and hours of the election, all three Democratic mayoral candidates were confident they had done enough to secure victory. Campaign teams were still busy taking residents to polling places, phone-banking to remind people to vote and going on social media to push their candidate.
Outside a polling location Tuesday afternoon, Small said his team was “feeling good about our chances.”
“We put our best foot forward,” he said. “We gave the voters of Atlantic City a great eight-month run. Let’s just hope they see fit to let it continue. I’m excited about what the future holds.”
Thomas-Fields said she was “having a ball” Tuesday and praised her team for their hard work while dealing with the challenges of running a campaign during a pandemic.
“We have done everything we could have possibly done,” Thomas-Fields said. “I am proud of everybody that was involved, and we are family.”
The difficulties of running a campaign in the middle of a global pandemic — fewer events, limited door-to-door canvassing — were felt by all the candidates.
“From the very beginning, we approached this months-long campaign as a COVID-19 campaign,” Whitehead said. “So we did things differently. We really used a virtual approach.”
Small landed several high-profile endorsements during the campaign, including Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, former Mayor Lorenzo Langford and four members of council. He also secured the county party line.
Thomas-Fields had the support of the local Democratic Committee and three council members.
Republican candidate Thomas Forkin ran unopposed in his party’s primary. Forkin, the former chair of the city Democratic Committee and current vice chair of the Atlantic City Republican Club, will square off against the Democratic nominee in November.
The mayoral candidates are vying for a one-year unexpired term, the result of former Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr.’s resignation in October after pleading guilty to wire fraud in federal court. A full four-year term will be on the 2021 ballot.
In the 2nd Ward Democratic primary, Councilwoman LaToya Dunston faced a challenge from Delmar Hamilton Sr. The two candidates were vying for a three-year unexpired term.
Poll workers said turnout at the Atlantic City in-person voting locations was lighter than usual. Only provisional ballots could be cast at the in-person locations.
Ballots postmarked by Tuesday can still be received and counted for up to one week.