ATLANTIC CITY — Seven hours wasn’t enough time for Atlantic County Democrats to answer the largest question coming into today’s convention: Who will be the two nominees on the Democratic ticket for Assembly?
After a round of speeches and voting, incumbent Vince Mazzeo came away with one spot, earning 115 votes. A second candidate failed to cross the 50 percent threshold required to win the nomination.
A second vote must be held, per convention rules. Democratic Party leadership, however, decided to end the convention Sunday and hold a second vote at a later date, because several delegates had left.
“I think this is indicative of how good this year will be,” party Chairman Mike Suleiman said. “I think there is a lot of interest in the Legislature. … We’re in a little bit of uncharted territory.”
The final vote for the second Assembly seat race had Buena Vista Township Committeeman John Armato with 67 votes, Freeholder Ernest Coursey with 55, former Surrogate Jim Carney with 35, former Mullica Township Committeewoman Barbara Rheault with 31 and former Atlantic City Councilman Rizwan Malik with 14.
Mazzeo will not be part of the second vote, because he won the first nomination. Malik will drop off because he was the lowest vote-getter.
Coursey, who derided the party for publicly endorsing a ticket of Colin Bell, Vince Mazzeo and John Armato before the convention, said he will call some people this week and try to swing some votes.
Coursey added he will run in the primary whether he gets the party’s official endorsement.
“It’s unfortunate that some people left tonight,” Coursey said. “I’m very pleased with the amount of votes I got tonight. We’ll see what happens from here.”
Coursey could add votes if another candidate drops out or endorses him.
Carney, who finished fourth in the vote, said he has not made a decision on whether he will stay in the race for the second vote.
“I am exploring some options,” he said.
It was not clear whether Reault will remain in the race.
The convention, packing the Golden Nugget’s Grand Ballroom with politicians, delegates and party officials, could set up some of the most expensive races in the state in November.
The party nominated former Atlantic City police Officer Eric Scheffler for county sheriff. Scheffler defeated former Egg Harbor City Councilman Dennis Munoz 123-83.
The party also nominated former Atlantic County Freeholder Bell for state Senate. He will run unopposed in the primary and face off against Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown in November.
Phil Murphy was endorsed for governor by the party, soundly defeating John Wisniewski and Bill Brennan
Caren Fitzpatrick, Thelma Witherspoon and Ashley Bennett were nominated by the party for the three freeholder seats up for election this year.
Fitzpatrick and Witherspoon will run for the at-large seats. Bennett will run against John Carman in the 3rd district.
All three will run unopposed in the primary.