After ending a 26-year run as mayor of Brigantine this year, Republican Phil Guenther will vie for one of the two Assembly seats up for election in the 2nd District this November.
“Over the years, I’ve seen how state government can either help or hinder our residents, our municipalities and our schools, and I certainly want to be on the side of helping to improve the economic prospects of the residents of Atlantic County and the success of our municipalities and schools,” Guenther said.
Three Republicans are already in the running to challenge incumbent Democrat Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato in the district that covers most of Atlantic County.
Republican Freeholder John Risley, of Egg Harbor Township, Somers Point Republican Councilman James Toto and Republican Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica have all announced their candidacy.
Ventnor Mayor Beth Maccagnano Holtzman was in the running until she dropped out in December to focus on recovering from spinal surgery.
Formica said he is in talks to run alongside Guenther.
“He understands the issues. I look forward to him joining the race, and I wouldn’t mind running right alongside him,” Formica said.
Guenther said he believes it’s a pivotal time in Atlantic County as leaders work to diversify the area’s economy. Specifically, he said he supports the county’s aviation park, which has been designated a growth zone.
“We need to make sure those incentives that are part of that program continue into the future,” Guenther said.
Guenther also said he thinks it’s important to continue the revitalization Atlantic City has seen in the past year with the opening of Stockton University’s Gateway Campus and two new casinos.
“We need to make sure that we can sustain that kind of investment in Atlantic City and that those conditions are right and that there’s stable leadership,” Guenther said.
Guenther, who is currently the superintendent of the Atlantic County Special Services and Vocational school districts, has been involved in public education since he joined the teaching staff of Atlantic City High School in 1981, where he taught English and social studies.
If elected, he plans to address what he has seen as problems with education funding distribution.
“The formula and the law as it’s written has to be implemented the way it’s supposed to be implemented, but I also think it may be time to look at the formula to see if it still is equitable for all districts at this time,” Guenther said.
Guenther said if he does not receive the nomination from the county’s Republican Committee at its convention in March, he will not enter the primary race.
“It doesn’t seem to make sense for Republican candidates to waste resources fighting each other in the primary when the convention process would work to provide everyone with an opportunity to speak to the delegates at the convention and move into the general election from there,” he said.
Guenther acknowledged there could be a learning curve moving from a city to state governmental position, but he hopes to remain as accessible to constituents as he did working as a local official.
“I look forward to the challenge, and I’m motivated by trying to do the best for Atlantic County.”
This story has been updated to clarify that all Republican candidates are currently running their own campaigns. There are no candidates running on a ticket.