LINWOOD — Atlantic County Republicans selected two longtime local leaders to run for Assembly in the 2nd District against Democrat incumbents.

Freeholder John Risley, of Egg Harbor Township, and Phil Guenther, who retired as Brigantine mayor in January after 26 years, will challenge incumbents Vince Mazzeo and John Armato in the fall after being selected at Saturday’s Atlantic County Republican Convention at Linwood Country Club.

The 2nd District encompasses most of Atlantic County.

“We have a state that is headed in the wrong direction — in fact, we’re heading for financial disaster,” said Risley. “The Democrats are in full control of all three branches of government, and they have the pedal to the medal.”

It’s vital to elect Republicans to start turning the tide away from overspending and overtaxing, he said, and to give state Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, a team with which he can work.

It was a common theme from almost all the speakers that Republicans need more of a voice in governing at all levels to repair the state’s fiscal woes.

Guenther said the Democrats have overtaxed residents and businesses and overspent on an inflated state budget.

He also said the state needs to stop “sucking most of the tax revenue out of Atlantic City and not investing what is needed by its residents and expected by its visitors” — especially public safety.

Somers Point Councilman James Toto was also nominated to run for one of the two Assembly slots but came in third in vote counts.

On the first ballot, Risley got more than 51 percent of the delegate count with 456 to Guenther’s 230 and Toto’s 145, thus earning him one of the slots. On the second vote, Guenther won 596 to Toto’s 235.

County Republican Chairman Keith Davis said 373 people attended the convention, and the fact that the Assembly race was contested shows the strength of the organization.

Previously, Freeholder Frank Formica and Ventnor Mayor Beth Holtzman had announced their intention to run but withdrew before the convention.

As expected, County Executive Dennis Levinson and 4th District Freeholder Rich Dase were nominated to run for re-election. Dase’s district encompasses Galloway Township, Absecon, Port Republic and Brigantine.

Levinson stressed the need to keep the county on sound financial footing, referring to the county’s long string of excellent audits and high bond ratings. He said it was the county’s strong finances that allowed Stockton University to expand into Atlantic City and the National Aviation Research and Technology Park to build its first building at Atlantic City International Airport. The county financed both, while Atlantic City and the state could not because of poor bond ratings, he said.

“Atlantic City will turn into a university town, thanks to Atlantic County,” Levinson said.

He said his opponent, Northfield Councilwoman Susan Korngut, could say nothing to criticize his administration other than he’s been in office since 2000 and the county is on “cruise control.” She was nominated by the Democrats at their convention last Sunday.

“If that’s cruise control, it seems to me it’s more overdrive than cruise control,” said Levinson.

Atlantic City police Officer Sumon Majumder, 37, who immigrated legally to the U.S. from Bangladesh when he was 19 and became a U.S. citizen in 2009, will challenge Democrat Freeholder Ernest Coursey in the county’s 1st District, which encompasses Pleasantville and parts of Egg Harbor Township and Atlantic City.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com 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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