The 2015 Atlantic City Council race is heating up, as two Republicans announced their candidacy to run for the 5th Ward City Council seat held by Democratic incumbent Rizwan Malik.

The Atlantic City Republican Club said in a statement that Sharon Zappia and Mike Lopez will face off in the June 2015 Republican primary for the 5th Ward slot.

Malik, who defeated then-5th Ward Councilman Dennis Mason by 15 votes in the 2011 Democratic primary, defeated Zappia by just 11 votes in the 2011 general election. He has not publicly announced he would seek re-election.

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Zappia, first vice president of the Atlantic City Republican Club, is owner of Anjus Realty in Atlantic City and ran for an at-large council spot on the ticket with Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian in November.

Lopez, a retired corrections officer, works as a shift manager for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s Boardwalk Ambassador program.

Both Zappia and Lopez are graduates of the L.E.A.D. Atlantic City Tomorrow Class offered by the New Jersey Joint Assembly, the Republican Club said in a statement.

Atlantic City Republican Club President Jesse Kurtz previously announced he will run for council in the 6th Ward. Kurtz lost by 25 votes to Democratic incumbent Tim Mancuso in 2011.

“These announcements are clearly more proof that we have come a very long way in building the Republican Party here in Atlantic City,” Kurtz said in a statement. “Under the direction of Chairman (Mark) Padula, we continue to offer viable solutions to city problems instead of competing for the next new city-owned SUV, and that seems to resonate well with the community. I am very pleased to see more people becoming involved in the process, and the intentions of the Republicans stepping forward are for the betterment of the city and not for personal gain.”

The Republican Club said it expected council seats in all six wards to be in play in the 2015 election.

Padula said he hoped to be making an announcement “very shortly” for a candidate to run for the 1st Ward seat held by Democrat Aaron “Sporty” Randolph.

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