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Atlantic County District 3 Freeholder candidates Thelma Witherspoon and Andrew Parker.

GOP seeks special election for vacant Atlantic commissioner seat

Judge will hear from lawyers today on new election

By David Wildstein, July 07 2021 2:21 pm

Republicans are asking a judge to order a special election for Atlantic County Commissioner, where a blunder by the county clerk led to the invalidation of a close November 2020 election.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Marczak will hear from both parties to determine in the election to fill a post vacant since January will be filled in a special election or concurrent with the November 2021 general election.

Marczyk declared a vacancy for the 3rd district commissioner seat, halting the swearing in of Democrat Thelma Witherspoon.  Parkinson defeated Republican Andrew Parker, an Egg Harbor Township Committeeman, by 286 votes.  The county clerk, Democrat Ed McGettigan, goofed by mailing the incorrect ballots to 544 votes.

Republicans want a special election – possibly on August 31 on the first two Tuesdays in September.  Democrats think their chances of winning are improved if they wait until November.

“The district is without the representation to which it is entitled, and the voters of the district have not had their voices heard,” said Tim Howes, the attorney for the Atlantic County Republicans, said in a letter to Marczyk.  “Under the unique circumstances of this case, the court should schedule a special election to be held as soon as is practical.”

The emergency conference called by Marczak for 3:30 this afternoon is off the record and not open to the public.

Witherspoon and Parker will face each other in a rematch.  Parker is also on the ballot this year as a candidate for re-election in Egg Harbor Township.   He has until September 7 to withdraw and have his name replaced on the local ballot.

It’s not immediately clear if Deputy Attorney General George N. Cohen, who represents the Atlantic County Board of Elections, will support a special election.

Both parties acknowledge that election officials have a lot on their plate these days: preparation for the November general election that will involve early voting for the first time, and a recount of a race for an at-large seat on the Board of Commissioners ordered last month following an appellate court ruling.

Marczyk denied a bid by Democrats to temporarily fill the seat.  It had previously been held by Democrat Ashley Bennett, who did not seek re-election to a second term.

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