Democrats in the second legislative district called for Gov. Phil Murphy to loosen virus restrictions on conventions and trade shows Thursday. Their county-backed Republican opponents said they didn’t go far enough.
“We all know how important conventions and trade shows are to Atlantic City, but organizing a press stunt to meekly ask the Governor to ease restrictions is like begging for table scraps when Atlantic City and Atlantic County are economically starving — it’s not good enough,” said former Assemblyman Vince Polistina.
Polistina is challenging Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) for the Senate seat held by State Sen. Chris Brown (R-Ventnor City). Brown is not seeking re-election.
Polistina and his Assembly running mates, former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and former deputy state attorney general Claire Swift, said Mazzeo and his slate — Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena) and Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick — should join with Republican legislators seeking to curtail Murphy’s executive authority.
“Our opponents approach here – writing a letter to the Governor and then passing a toothless resolution at the county level – aren’t going to accomplish anything,” Guardian said. “We need bold leadership to revitalize Atlantic City’s economy, attract tourists, and create jobs. That doesn’t happen with some nice words at a press conference, it happens by taking action and calling on the Governor to stand down.”
Restrictions on indoor gatherings and events mean conventions and trade shows, events that more than a billion dollars in revenue to Atlantic City each year, are effectively barred.
Though indoor gathering limits for large venues are laxer than general limits, those apply only to facilities with at fixed seating capacity of 2,500 or more. Such facilities are allowed to operate at 20% capacity.
While those limits don’t expressly prohibit conventions, they do limit the number of eligible venues. Conventions where attendees mill about and interact with large amounts of people will likely face regulatory hurdles.
That means they’ll at best be limited to 250 individuals starting May 10. At worst, they’d be subject to the 25-person limit on general indoor gatherings.
“The people of Atlantic County elected Vince Mazzeo and John Armato to fight for them in Trenton, and Caren Fitzpatrick to do the same as County Commissioner,” Swift said. “Weakly asking the Governor permission to save our local economy isn’t leadership, it’s weakness.”