Frank Formica, the longtime Republican Atlantic County freeholder, has dropped out of the race for Assembly after announcing his candidacy in November.

Formica said Friday he made the decision “with a heavy heart and sincere regret,” and cited recent developments in two lawsuits pertaining to his personal business, Baker Boys LLC, on Mill Road in Pleasantville, as the reason.

That leaves former Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther, Freeholder John Risley and Somers Point Councilman James Toto as the Republican contenders for the seats now held by Democrats Vince Mazzeo and John Armato.

The lawsuits are related to two former employees who suffered injuries on the job that led to amputations.

“This action is being taken after extensive discussion with (Atlantic County Executive) Dennis Levinson, (Atlantic County Republican Chairman) Keith Davis, my political consultants and the advice of my attorneys,” said Formica. “We all have come to the conclusion that the potential negative effects of these developments will prove challenging to me, my family and my campaign and could prove to be detrimental to the entire ticket and our overall campaign.”

The lawsuits have already been used against Formica politically.

Last year Atlantic County Democrats running for three freeholder seats — Celeste Fernandez, Maureen Leidy and Barbara Butterhof-Rheault — criticized Formica and Freeholder Jim Bertino, who manages the Baker Boys facility, for the incidents in their campaign last year. None of the three Democrats won election.

Neither Formica nor Bertino is being personally sued for wrongdoing in the suit.

Formica had said he was running for Assembly to help reform state law to tighten rules on use of mail-in ballots, after a large number of votes were cast for Democrats in the November election via the mail-in system in Pleasantville and Atlantic City.

He was re-elected in November, but his margin tightened considerably after mail-in ballots were counted.

Formica said at the time he was concerned a political machine was paying people for their mail-in ballots.

Formica has been involved in a bipartisan effort with Mazzeo, Armato, state Sen. Chris Brown and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, and others to demand that NJ Transit reopen the Atlantic City Rail Line.

NJ Transit recently announced the rail line will resume service May 24.

He also has been named in a whistleblower lawsuit, along with Levinson, against Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner and his office.

But he said Friday that lawsuit did not figure into his decision, and he expects to be released from it. He said the freeholder board and county government have no say in the workings of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Filed by former Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton, former Lt. Heather McManus and current Assistant Prosecutor Donna Fetzer, the lawsuit alleges gender discrimination and retaliation by Tyner and claimed Levinson and Formica “refuse to look deeper at gender bias and systemically devalue plaintiffs, as women, in the workplace,” and “have publicly announced their support of the male defendants even before this lawsuit was filed and even before all the facts were and/or have been disclosed,” according to the 146-page suit.

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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