Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo has dropped out of the race for the state Senate, citing the recent death of his father and the demands on the family business.

Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, will instead run for re-election to the Assembly while former Atlantic County Freeholder Colin Bell will take his spot atop the ticket for state senator.

“With my father’s passing last week and the realization that now more than ever my duty to my family business is growing, I need to be able to balance my responsibilities to my store and my job as Assemblyman,” Mazzeo said in a statement. “I know the job and the tremendous time and effort it requires, and I’m ready to continue to serve and run for re-election to the Assembly to fight for all of Atlantic County.”

Filling out the Democratic ticket with Bell and Mazzeo will be John Armato, a committeeman in Buena Vista Township.

Mazzeo said if he is re-elected to the Assembly, he would be open to being a chairman of a committee. The time commitment to being chairman of a committee would be more than what he’s doing now, but not by much, he said.

“With everything that has happened, I just didn’t think the timing was right,” he said in a phone interview.

Bell, who will now run for the state Senate against Assemblyman Chris Brown, was an Atlantic County freeholder at-large for three years and a candidate for the Assembly in 2015, coming in third place behind Brown and Mazzeo.

He is an attorney in Atlantic City and a former assistant Atlantic County prosecutor. He was a longtime member of the board of directors for the Atlantic City Boys & Girls Club.

Bell said in a statement that, if elected, some of his top priorities will be restoring funding for women’s health services and reforming student loan lending practices.

“As your Senator, I’ll bring the same no-nonsense attitude to Trenton to shake up the business as usual politics that’s leaving our state in a deepening economic hole,” Bell said in a statement. “We need jobs, industries and businesses, and we need to protect New Jersey’s women and students.”

Armato is a former sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. After returning from his military service, he became an HVAC technician and a member of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 322, working in the Atlantic City casino industry.

He has been a member of the Richland Volunteer Fire Company for 40 years and an emergency medical technician for 10 years with the Minotola Rescue Squad.

Brown said he will remain focused on the issues no matter who he runs against.

“I remain focused on creating jobs for our families by building upon the momentum we’ve gained by defeating North Jersey casinos which directly led to Hard Rock adding 3,000 local jobs and fighting for $40 million in property-tax relief for all Atlantic County families while pushing to diversify our economy by attracting more investment to our aviation park and around Stockton University’s footprint in Atlantic City,” he said.

In a statement that followed Mazzeo’s announcement, Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis said it’s not surprising that Mazzeo dropped out of the race because of recent telephone polls that have been asking residents who they would prefer to see run against Assemblyman Chris Brown this November. Democrats have denied they were behind those polls.

“What’s incredible is that they are replacing him with Colin Bell, who undermined and opposed Chris Brown’s efforts to stop North Jersey casinos every chance he had,” Davis said in the statement.

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Contact: 609-272-7260 Twitter @ACPressDeRosier

I joined The Press in January 2016 after graduating from Penn State in December 2015. I was the sports editor for The Daily Collegian on campus which covered all 31 varsity sports and several club sports.

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