Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small defeated Panela Thomas-Fields to win the chance to run for a (full) term as Atlantic City mayor.
With many votes uncounted, Small led his challenger with more than 60% of the vote.
Despite his troubled past, Small managed to win support from some of the state’s most prominent Democrats, including Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, among others.
Thomas-Fields received support from Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-Newark), Booker primary challenger and longtime progressive activist Lawrence Hamm and Atlantic City powerbroker Craig Callaway.
As it wore on to its end, the primary fight became something of a bitter struggle.
Facing a candidate with the Atlantic City Democratic Organization at her back, Small aired a television ad showing Thomas-Fields endorsing him in October, when he took over for former Mayor Frank Gilliams, who resigned after pleading guilty to embezzling $87,000 from a youth basketball league he started.
Thomas-Fields, a longtime community activist, largely kept her campaign’s advertisements civil, pushing the idea that Atlantic City needed new leadership after weathering multiple crises and numerous administrations that ended in criminal charges.
She backed Small for the mayorship after Gilliam resigned — her videotaped endorsement was later used in a Small ad that Thomas-Fields called a ‘low blow’ — but later decided to run after.
Small will face Atlantic City Republican Club vice chairman Thomas Forkin in November. The Democrat is heavily favored to win the race.
Vote tallies do not include uncounted mail-in ballots received by Tuesday, late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday, provisional ballots that won’t be counted for at least a week and mail-in ballots that were disqualified but may be cured at a later date.