BY CLYDE HUGHES, AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY – Atlantic City councilman Aaron “Sporty” Randolph wants residents to be aggressive about voting and their voting rights, saying that going to the polls should be of particular importance to the local African-American community.
Randolph, who has been on city council since 2010 when he was first appointed and then beat a candidate that was backed by a former Atlantic City mayor, told Front Runner New Jersey.com that he takes personal responsibility in informing people in his Ward 1 about elections.
“Every day when I get up, I always have on my mind to try to enlighten somebody on why they need to vote and let them know what elections are coming up,” Randolph said. “You shouldn’t just vote in the general election in November. You need to vote in every election.
“Whether its school board elections are what, you need to get into the practice of voting. It is a practice. The more you do it, the more you’ll care about it and the more you will do it again. So I always try to engage people about voting,” he added.
Randolph, who was chosen vice president of city council in January, attended the voter’s education forum put on by the NAACP Atlantic City branch and Prince Hall Mason at St. James AME Church Sept. 20.
There, Khyla D. Craine, assistant general counsel for the NAACP national headquarters spoke to several issues, including efforts to suppress the vote in the African-American and other communities of color and encouraging attendees to take an active role in turnout.
“The African-American community definitely needs to be informed and the only way they can be is with forums like this,” Randolph said at the event Sept. 20. “I think it’s very vital that we get the word out about the elections and these issues because it is the mid-term elections and they are important.”
Randolph is now a city council veteran, but he distanced himself from the word politician.
“First of all, I’m not a politician. I’m a public servant,” he said. “When I first ran, there were thing I thought my community needed and things that needed to get done in my ward. I thought, ‘Why just talk about it? Why not get out and do something about it?’ That’s why I decided to run. I won’t be here forever and don’t plan to be here forever.”
Randolph did not say how long he plans to be around, but there are some things he saw as a priorities.
“I just went to a grand opening day for mixed-used housing in my ward that we haven’t had in 40 years,” Randolph said last month. “I would like to see some more businesses come into my area. We’re working on some things. Hopefully in the near future we will be able to announce some things about that happening.”
Randolph said he also would like to be part of the city council that returned its financial sovereignty from the control of the State of New Jersey.
“The state takeover is something we’ve been dealing with for the past two years but I think we’ve reached a point where there is now a collaboration,” Randolph said. “(Gov. Phil Murphy) sees us as more of a partnership than a dictatorship. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to stick around longer to get through this and get back to our sovereignty.”
While unveiling an Atlantic City transition report last month, Murphy sounded upbeat about the resort city.
“Without a doubt, positive things are happening in Atlantic City,” Murphy said then in a statement released by his administration last month. “However, if we want to see today’s progress endure long into the future, we have to tackle longstanding challenges such as poverty, unemployment, affordable housing and public health. Most importantly, we must invest in the people who live and work here.”
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, the highest ranking African-American public official in the state, said that positive things will continue to happen for Atlantic City by working together to broaden the economy.
“We thank the review team for charting a course to get the city to a place of shared prosperity,” Oliver said in the same statement. “Jim Johnson and his team are true professionals who understand the city’s revitalization goes beyond the casinos to effectively capitalize on the city’s assets and address quality of life initiatives.”
Randolph said that progress will also continue as residents continue to take part in the growth, which includes voting.
“The main message is get out and vote,” Randolph said. “It’s as simple as that. It’s not rocket science. Exercising our right to vote is what we need to do as a people.”