Early Voting Results Suggest Atlantic City Government Structure Will Remain

Posted on: May 13, 2020, 08:50h. 

Last updated on: May 13, 2020, 09:38h.

Atlantic City will likely retain its local government structure led by an elected mayor and nine-member City Council, early results from Tuesday’s special election suggest.

Atlantic City election Marty Small
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. is all smiles after a motion to change the town’s government was shot down. (Image: Vernon Ogrodnek/Philadelphia Inquirer)

Atlantic City residents voted yesterday on a ballot referendum question asking them if they want to overhaul the casino town’s government. A campaign funded by Resorts Casino owner Morris Bailey and supported by Bob McDevitt, president of the casino workers union Unite Here Local 54, sought to replace the mayor with a city manager and smaller five-member City Council.

Tuesday’s election was conducted entirely by mail because of the coronavirus crisis. Election officials said there would be no definitive result on Election Day unless there was a landslide in early results.

A landslide it was.

Preliminary results showed 3,275 “No” votes to change the Atlantic City government, to only 985 “Yes” votes.

Mayor Marty Small Sr. (D) celebrated the results on social media. “With about 2,000 more votes to count it will get uglier. I’ve never been more proud of our town. NO MEANS NO. THIS IS OUR CITY.”

Committee Concedes

The Atlantic City Residents for Good Government (ACRGG) was the committee that successfully placed the change of government question on Tuesday’s ballot. Bailey contributed more than $126,000 to the committee. Today, the ACRGG is admitting defeat.

After the first night of counting the ballot it is clear that the referendum to change the government structure in Atlantic City will be defeated by a wide margin, even though counting continues,” McDevitt said in a release. “We congratulate the opposition to this question and thereby concede defeat.”

“The citizens of Atlantic City have spoken and the Atlantic City Residents for Good Government respect their choice,” McDevitt continued. “We wish the elected officials well in their struggles ahead. The people have rejected change and we accept without qualification their decision.”

Small Has Big Problem

With the government as it’s known expected to remain in Atlantic City, Small now needs to win over voters in both July and November to maintain his mayorship.

Small replaced Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. last October after Gilliam pleaded guilty to stealing $87,000 from a youth basketball program he founded. Gilliam was the fourth Atlantic City mayor since 1981 to face criminal charges. Small had run-ins with the law, too. He’s been charged twice for committing election fraud, but both times was acquitted.

The Atlantic City Democratic Committee wants a new face in the role of mayor. In April, the committee endorsed Pamela Thomas-Fields over the incumbent Small.

“Pam is the most qualified candidate for mayor. She sees everyone as an important individual in the community,” said Gwendolyn Lewis, municipal chair of the Atlantic City Democratic Committee. “She is the voice of our community and will support our diversities to shape the next Atlantic City.”

The Democratic and Republican primaries will be held July 7, delayed by the coronavirus from the originally scheduled first Monday in June. The general election will be held on November 3.