Judge Julio Mendez To Hear Thelma Witherspoon-Andrew Parker Atlantic County Freeholder Race


By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was produced as part of the 2020 Election Reporting Fellowship with NJ ethnic and community media organized by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

MAYS LANDING — Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez will hold a hearing Friday (Dec. 11) which could lead to either a do-over special election in the Atlantic County Freeholder District 3 race or declaring Democrat Thelma Witherspoon the winner over Republican challenger Andrew Parker III.

The seat became up for grabs when incumbent Ashley Bennett, D., Egg Harbor Township, decided not to run and briefly engaged a run for the U.S House District 2 race against Jeff Van Drew.

The election is being questioned because of a mistake in the County Clerk’s Office effecting more than 500 ballots in the race. According to the Press of Atlantic City, 335 ballots sent to Hamilton Township residents did not include the District 3 race, and 219 residents outside of the district did receive the District 3 ballot, allowing them to weigh in erroneously.

In the final tally, Witherspoon grabbed 50.4 percent of the vote, 15,019 to Parker’s 49.5 percent, 14,730, a difference of 289 votes.

Parker said the only fair way to resolve the issue would be a special election, correcting the ballot mistake. Witherspoon argues that the disenfranchised voters harmed her the most (she won by a wide margin in Hamilton Township) and the election should be called in her favor.

Witherspoon, a minister and former Atlantic City school board member, ran against Parker, an educator who made history in 2018 as the first Black person to win a seat on the Egg Harbor Township Committee.

While Atlantic County freeholders will remain in Republican hands regardless of who wins the election, Parker’s win would give the party a solid 6-3 majority. Witherspoon would trim that advantage to 5-4 with a win.

Ernest Coursey, the only other African American on the freeholder board, is a Democrat serving in District 1.

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