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Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman at a virtual breakfast meeting of the New Jersey delegation to the Democratic National Convention on August 20. 2020. (Photo:: New Jersey Globe via Zoom.)

Atlantic Dems won’t ask judge to force special freeholder election

Suleiman says he didn’t want to delay mailing of vote-by-mail ballots

By David Wildstein, September 14 2020 12:09 pm

Atlantic County Democrats considered mounting a court fight to force a special election for Frank Formica’s freeholder-at-large seat in 2020, but decided not to.

Formica resigned on Friday, one day after the deadline to allow voters to fill vacancies in the next election.

“While we felt confident that we would prevail, courtroom success would cause a delay in the receipt of mail-in ballots to Atlantic County residents,” said Michael Suleiman, the Democratic county chairman.  “Distasteful as it is to watch the Republicans appoint a political insider, with everything at stake this year and Republican tampering with the U.S. Postal Service, we could not, in good conscience, risk that delay.”

Republicans have a 5-2 majority on the freeholder board, with the possibility of picking up one more seat.  A special for the Formica seat would have triggered a control election in a high-turnout presidential year that has favored Democrats in recent years.

Suleiman slapped at Republicans for the timing of Formica’s departure.

“Frank Formica’s resignation from the Freeholder Board immediately after the vacancy deadline shows how afraid the Republicans are of the upcoming Blue Wave,” the chairman said. “They’re too afraid to face the voters this year and decided to take the easy way out.”

Suleiman said he would press legislators to reform the state’s vacancy laws “so that we can mitigate abuses like this in the future.”

Former Atlantic County Sheriff Frank X. Balles has emerged as the clear front-runner for Formica’s seat at a special election convention held by Republicans.

Balles would serve the remaining fourteen months of Formica’s term and face voters in 2021.

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