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

Judge rejects Democrats bid to seat Witherspoon as interim Atlantic commissioner

By David Wildstein, September 24 2021 10:11 am

An Atlantic County Commissioner seat vacant since January after a judge invalidated the 2020 election results will remain empty until voters make their choice in the November 2 special election, a state appellate court ruled on Friday.

Democrat Thelma Witherspoon defeated Republican Andrew Parker, Egg Harbor Township Committeeman, by 286 votes in the November 2020 general election,

But Superior Court Judge Joseph Marczyk invalidated those results after learning that County Clerk Ed McGettigan, a Democrat, mailed the incorrect ballot to 544 votes in Hamilton Township.  He said it was impossible to determine an actual winner.

Atlantic County Democrats had sought to seat Witherspoon on an interim basis, since another Democrat, Ashley Bennett, was the last winner of the seat.

Witherspoon and Parker will face off again this year for a two-year unexpired term as county commissioner in District 3.

“We discern no basis for disturbing Judge Marczyk’s determination, and we affirm for the reasons set forth in his thoughtful opinion,” the appellate court said in their decision.  “As the judge found, there was no ‘winner’ of the November 3, 2020 election for the Commissioner position in the third district. Therefore, we cannot identify ‘the appropriate political party” to appoint an interim commissioner”

“Obviously we are disappointed in the appellate division’s decision, but we accept it,” said Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman.  “Thelma beat her opponent once, and she’ll do it again this fall.”

This will be Witherspoon’s third run.  She lost a freeholder-at-large race in 2017 by just 892 votes against incumbent John Risley.   Parker dropped out of his race for re-election to the township committee to run for commissioner this year.

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