ATLANTIC CITY — The mayoral campaign is in full swing — literally — after a video surfaced of Mayor Marty Small Sr. knocking a phone out of a rival campaigner’s hand Sunday and then being shoved.
The altercation quickly became campaign fodder, with Democratic rival Tom Foley releasing the video Sunday night. Small responded with a news conference Monday afternoon, saying Foley was trying to intimidate and harass voters of color.
Not to be outdone, Foley was in Mays Landing on Monday afternoon to file a complaint with the Atlantic County Superintendent of Elections against Small, alleging Small’s campaign was paying $10 each for votes in the public housing complex Stanley Holmes Village. However, Foley said his campaign was still working on the written complaint, which had not yet been filed as of Monday afternoon.
Politics is a full-contact sport in the resort, where issues often get lost in a maze of petty distractions and personal attacks.
There are likely to be more of these kind of back-and-forth allegations as the June primary approaches.
Things had already gotten ugly. In March, Small filed a lawsuit against Foley supporter and political organizer Craig Callaway, of Atlantic City, alleging slander over statements Callaway has made saying Small and his wife allowed a relative to rape a child in their home. The Smalls have said it is a lie and Callaway knows or should know it to be a lie.
Small said Monday that Callaway and another political organizer working for Foley, Dionne Garland, used intimidation tactics to try to stop him and his campaign workers from talking to voters Sunday afternoon.
At a news conference Monday, Small apologized for any embarrassment he may bring on the city for reacting in anger.
“People will say another mayor is fighting in Atlantic City,” Small said.
His predecessor, Frank Gilliam, resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to stealing more than $80,000 from a youth basketball league. Gilliam had also been involved in a fight outside an Atlantic City casino.
As for the latest incident, Small said, “They screamed obscenities ... and called us child molester protectors. It turned physical when (a Foley supporter) pushed me.”
Small said he had “every right as a man” to protect himself and fight back in self-defense.
However, Foley said Garland was filming Small with a cell phone when Small made the first physical contact, swatting the phone out of Garland’s hand.
That’s when Garland lunged toward Small, Foley said.
The video does show Small swatting the phone out of Garland’s hand just before Garland lashed out at Small, shoving him.
Small does not plan to file any charges related to the incident but wanted to explain what happened to residents, he said.
Later Monday, Small said Foley’s accusations about paying for votes are just a distraction.
“It’s funny he’s talking about Stanley Holmes Village. He needs a GPS to find it,” Small said of Foley. “How ironic he would even utter that my campaign is paying people (for votes), when people supporting him have a history of paying people $30 to $50 for their vote.”
Callaway has been accused of paying voters $30 to $50 per vote in the past, including by former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian after he lost his bid for re-election in 2017.
“This is what you get when you have a Donald Trump supporter running for office. You get voter suppression. You get voter intimidation. You get physical confrontations,” Small said in a written statement and again at the news conference. “Across the country, Trump Republicans are working to deprive communities of color of their right to vote, and now Tom Foley and Craig Callaway are trying to do this in Atlantic City.”
Foley, a former Republican, has acknowledged being a supporter of former President Trump.
Small’s complaint against Callaway, filed in March in Atlantic County Superior Court, accuses Callaway of slander and civil conspiracy for comments Callaway made about the Smalls and a relative of theirs who has pleaded guilty to child exploitation involving sexual abuse and child pornography.
Kayan Frazier, 28, of Somers Point — who is the cousin of Small’s wife, La’Quetta — pleaded guilty Feb. 4 in federal court to exploitation of a child who was in Frazier’s care between March 2017 and April 15, 2019.
According to the plea agreement, Frazier possessed and distributed child pornography dating as far back as March 2015.
Frazier had lived with the Smalls at their Atlantic City home while attending Stockton University and for some time after, Small said, but moved out to live in his own apartment in October 2015.
Frazier worked as a substitute teacher in Atlantic City schools, including at the Pennsylvania Avenue School, where La’Quetta Small was principal, between 2015 and 2017.
He was dismissed for inappropriate behavior after La’Quetta Small found out a minor child had stayed overnight in his apartment.
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