City Councilman Frank Gilliam won Atlantic City’s Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday, defeating Council President Marty Small and two other candidates in a city where local officials have been stripped of most of their power.
Gilliam, who had the backing of the Atlantic County Democratic Committee, will face incumbent Mayor Don Guardian, a Republican in his first term, in the November general election. Small and candidates Fareed Abdullah and Jimmy Whitehead challenged Gilliam for the nomination.
Local officials lost major decision-making powers after the state took over Atlantic City’s troubled finances in November. But the winner of the mayor’s race could see his power restored if Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy wins the governor’s office and keeps his promise to end the takeover. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the Republican nominee, hasn’t said whether she would end the state takeover if elected.
The Democratic primary pitted Gilliam, who voted against the city’s fiscal recovery proposals to avoid a state takeover, against Small, who worked alongside Guardian in a high-profile fight against the takeover last year.
Guardian, who shocked many in 2013 when he won as a Republican in a heavily Democratic city, has leapt from crisis to crisis since taking office. Five casinos have closed since 2014 and the city’s fiscal downturn brought the city to the brink of a municipal bankruptcy.
In Camden, City Council President Frank Moran won the Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday and moved closer to replacing longtime Mayor Dana Redd.
Moran outlasted several primary challengers, including Ray Lamboy, the president of Camden’s Latin American Development Association. Redd, who is not seeking re-election, has thrown her support behind Moran, who is heavily favored to win the general election in November in a city virtually devoid of Republican voters.