Republican Atlantic County Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica and Ventnor Mayor Beth Maccagnano Holtzman will run for state Assembly next year, the candidates announced Sunday.

The 2nd Legislative District, which encompasses most of Atlantic County, is currently represented by Democrats Vince Mazzeo, of Northfield, and John Armato, of Buena Vista Township.

Formica said Sunday he has been asked many times to run for the state Legislature but decided to remain a freeholder. But this election convinced him to run for state office, he said, to reform the voting system — particularly the handling of mail-in ballots by third parties.

Formica has led the board for eight of his nine years as freeholder. In his re-election campaign, he stressed his experience in helping the county control spending, keep a high bond rating and encourage economic development beyond the casino industry countywide.

“I will put all of my knowledge and leadership experience to bear relentlessly for our county,” Formica said Sunday. “There are many wonderful opportunities that Atlantic County can look forward to. I want to be part of (a) team with Sen. Chris Brown (R-Atlantic) to capitalize on each and every one of them.”

Maccagnano Holtzman, 56, is in her 30th year as the fiscal officer for Atlantic County’s Department of Family and Community Development. She has been Ventnor mayor for about 2½ years.

She said she is particularly interested in combating addiction.

“I lived through having a teenage child with addiction,” said Maccagnano Holtzman of her daughter, who is 26 and has been clean for almost seven years.

Concerning school safety, she advocates putting armed guards in all schools.

“I don’t want to get into pro-gun and anti-gun. We just need to protect our children,” she said. “We’ve had enough incidents in the country to know it can happen to us.”

The announcement comes as Formica narrowly defeated newcomer Democrat Celeste Fernandez to win re-election to the freeholder board.

Fernandez, who ran on a “Unity in Diversity” platform that focused on the need to bring the concerns of communities of color into the public conversation, could not be reached Sunday for comment. But on her Facebook page, she thanked everyone who supported her and vowed to keep working for Democrats.

Approximate final numbers were not known until after provisional and mail-in ballots were counted Thursday night and into the early morning hours Friday. Then a judge ruled on a small number of questionable ballots Friday.

Vote tallies won’t be final until they are certified by the county clerk, which is expected to happen early this week.

The unofficial tally has Atlantic City bakery owner Formica up by about 1,800 votes, after provisional and mail-in ballots were counted, over Fernandez, a Pleasantville business owner who lives in Egg Harbor Township.

Atlantic County Republican Party Chairman Keith Davis said it’s great for the GOP that Formica is running for Assembly, but a shame it took so long to verify his freeholder win.

Davis blamed “the incredible number of provisional ballots triggered by the Democrats’ constant rigging of the election system, causing voter confusion.”

An unprecedented number of provisional votes — about 3,000 — were cast this year countywide, according to Atlantic County Board of Elections Chairwoman Evelynn Caterson. That’s largely because of a new state law that required everyone who requested an absentee mail-in ballot last year to automatically get one this year.

Many people didn’t want mail in ballots, though, and turned up at the polls Election Day.

At the polls, they had to cast a written provisional vote because they were on a list of people who had received mail-ins. And the board had to verify the voters had not sent in absentee ballots before their provisional votes could count.

“They lost everything this year in Atlantic County — no freeholder seats and no municipalities in what was supposed to be a blue wave,” Davis said.

Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Mike Suleiman said the voting trend in the county is moving in favor of the Democrats.

“Obviously we’re disappointed at losing, but the margins were close,” Suleiman said. “The overall picture is our party is getting more competitive in the county, which is remarkable. It was not the case four or five years ago.”

Contact: 609-272-7219 Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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