ATLANTIC CITY — A mix of incumbents, first-timers, former officials and repeat challengers makes up a slate of 21 candidates vying for six open seats on City Council in 2019.
Each of the city’s six ward council seats is up for election this year, all for four-year terms. The primary election is Tuesday.
The city is under state control, a scenario that began under former Gov. Chris Christie’s administration in 2016 when Atlantic City was on the brink of financial collapse. Gov. Phil Murphy has maintained the state’s oversight of the city’s finances, and his administration has made clear it intends to remain in charge for the full five-year limit allowed under the Municipal Recovery and Stabilization Act.
Although the city’s financial situation has improved, massive debt service payments, a shrinking tax base and a litany of mounting capital projects have the potential to undermine the state’s efforts.
The state’s control of the city, combined with a sense that local government could be doing more for residents and noncasino businesses, has prompted several candidates to run for election in 2019.
Five of the six incumbents are running for re-election, with the lone exception of 4th Ward Councilman William “Speedy” Marsh, who decided not to run again after serving on council for 17 years.
Five Democrats and three Republicans are vying for the 4th Ward seat being vacated by Marsh. Among the candidates running are Rizwan Malik, a former councilman for the 5th Ward who lost a primary to Councilman Chuen “Jimmy” Cheng in 2015, Atlantic City Board of Education Vice President Constance Days-Chapman and Ronald Bailey, who unsuccessfully ran for an at-large seat in 2017.
Current council Vice President and 1st Ward Councilman Aaron Randolph is facing a primary challenge from Robert L. Johnson. The winner will face Republican Matthew McGrath in the general election.
In the 3rd Ward, incumbent Councilman Kaleem Shabazz faces a primary challenge from Torres W. Mayfield Sr., a former councilman. Shabazz is finishing his first term on council after upsetting incumbent Steven L. Moore in 2015.
Cheng is facing a primary challenge in the 5th Ward from two Democrats, Muhammad “Anjum” Zia and Anjum Malik. The victor will face Republican Sharon Zappia, who has run for office in the past.
Council’s only sitting Republican, Councilman Jesse O. Kurtz, is not facing a primary challenge. But two Democrats, John C. Exadaktilos and Mohammed Suhel Ahmed, are trying to unseat Kurtz and represent the 6th Ward.
Council President and 2nd Ward Councilman Marty Small Sr. is the only candidate running unopposed in either the primary or the Nov. 5 general election.
Here is the full list of people who submitted petitions prior to the April 1 deadline:
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• Aaron “Sporty” Randolph, Democrat (incumbent)
• Robert L. Johnson, Democrat
• Matthew McGrath, Republican
• Marty Small Sr., Democrat (incumbent)
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• Kaleem Shabazz, Democrat (incumbent)
• Torres W. Mayfield Sr., Democrat
• Rizwan Malik, Democrat
• Abusaeed “Saeed” Asduha, Democrat
• Md Hossain Morshed, Democrat
• Surajit “Milton” Chowdhury, Democrat
• Constance “Mandy” Days-Chapman, Democrat
• Ronald V. Bailey, Republican
• Sean Reardon, Republican
• Fred Granese, Republican
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• Chuen “Jimmy” Cheng, Democrat (incumbent)
• Muhammad “Anjum” Zia, Democrat
• Anjum Malik, Democrat
• Sharon Zappia, Republican
• John C. Exadaktilos, Democrat
• Mohammed Suhel Ahmed, Democrat
• Jesse O. Kurtz, Republican (incumbent)