AC Mayor’s Race Heats Up After Gov’t Referendum Voted Down

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

ATLANTIC CITY – The race is officially on to see who will be the next mayor of Atlantic City after voters soundly defeated an all-mail-in referendum last week that would have changed the city’s government from “strong mayor” to city manager.

Incumbent interim Mayor Marty Small Sr. came out of the box with state and local endorsements while his appointment, city employee and Stockton adjunct professor Pamela Thomas-Fields tried to tie them to the losing referendum.

The group Atlantic City For Good Government, backed by Resorts Casino owner Morris Bailey and Unite Here Local 54 president Bob Devitt, led the effort to get the referendum on the ballot. It would have made all city council positions at-large, allowing them to elect the mayor, and letting a city manager run the city.

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The referendum, though, was voted down 3,275 to 985, with vocal opposition by Small, Thomas-Fields and other Atlantic City elected incumbents.

Last Thursday, after the referendum’s defeat was solidified, local State Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato announced their support for Small in the upcoming July 7 Democratic Primary. Atlantic City council president George Tibbitt also said he would back Small.

“Marty Small stepped up as mayor of Atlantic City after (Frank) Gilliam left another black eye on the city government,” Mazzeo said in a statement. “Marty took on the role of mayor with positivity and vision; something the city desperately needed. I have seen Marty implement internal and external changes down to the way that city employees answer the phone, all of his changes have been centered around bringing respect back to Atlantic City government and being responsible to the people of Atlantic City.”

Armato added: “Mayor Small has aimed to make Atlantic City government transparent and responsible to the people of Atlantic City since the day he was sworn in. In just a small amount of time he has changed the internal attitude of City Hall from a bleak sight to an office that is proud to serve the residents of Atlantic City.”

Thomas-Fields, who has the backing of the Atlantic City Democratic Committee, fired back, claiming they “are financed by the same forces that attempted to hijack our local government.”

“Their silence on the change of government referendum and complete lack of support  for the ‘No’ vote speaks volumes on their complacency with the status quo,” Thomas-Fields said in a statement. “Atlantic City deserves positive foundational change from unbought and unbossed leadership. This hollow endorsement only serves to connect my opponent to the corruption and back door deals that have plagued this city for decades.”

Yes, the race is heating up.

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