Atlantic County Commissioner Karen Fitzpatrick (D-Linwood) and veteran/kindergarten teacher Alphonse Harrell announced today that they will run for the State Assembly this year in the 2nd Legislative District, one of the state’s at-large districts.
The pair, who are aiming to win unopposed at Sunday’s Atlantic Democratic convention, will face incumbent Assembly members Claire Swift (R-Margate) and Don Guardian (R-Atlantic City). Democrats have yet to find a candidate to challenge state Sen. Vince Palstina (R-Egg Harbor Township), though they intend to put someone on the ticket by Sunday’s convention.
This is the second legislative campaign for Fitzpatrick, who was first elected as a county commissioner in 2017 and is one of two Democrats who serve on the nine-member board today. She ran for the Assembly in 2021, but came in fourth place with 23% of the vote, trailing incumbent Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena Vista) and two Republican winners.
“Our families deserve better representation in the House of Representatives; we need to fix inequities in school funding, improve mental health services, protect reproductive health and fight for policies to make Atlantic County more affordable,” Fitzpatrick said in her announcement today. “Our families need better wages, educational opportunities and access to affordable health care, and I promise to do everything I can to make a difference.”
Harrell, meanwhile, is a political novice. The Egg Harbor resident served in the Marine Corps before becoming a kindergarten teacher in Atlantic City and is involved with the Atlantic City Education Association.
“I am honored to serve my country and I am running for the State Assembly to ensure that our veterans receive the support they need,” Harrell said. “I am committed to working hard for our fair share of education funding in Atlantic County, good-paying jobs, safer neighborhoods, and will fight tirelessly for priorities that impact our communities.”
Harrell is black, which is an important fact in an area that has a a large minority population but never sent a colored legislator to Trenton. During last year’s battle to redraw the county commissioner map, black political leaders and county Democrats came to an agreement this included a promise to include a person of color on the Democratic legislative ticket this year.
Fitzpatrick, Harrell and a possible Democratic Senate nominee face an intense and expensive campaign in what has long been one of the state’s most competitive legislative districts — a campaign that will surely be a focus for Democrats looking to regain lost ground in the Legislature. organ.
In presidential years, Atlantic Democrats tend to do well, with Joe Biden beating Donald Trump in the 2nd District by nearly 12 points. But in second years, when local issues are at the fore and turnout in Atlantic City and Pleasantville falls, Republicans have an advantage; In 2021, Jack Ciatarelli won the district by seven points against Governor Phil Murphy.
Polistina, Swift and Guardian, whose 2021 victory marked the first time since 2005 that the 2nd District was fully represented by one party, have built a moderate brand in their year and a half in the state legislature. Among other prominent voices, they were the only Republicans to support last year’s budgetpraising it including significant investment in Atlantic County.
Also potentially looming over the company a bill banning smoking in casinos which has languished in the legislature for decades but may finally be passed this year. All of the 2nd District GOP candidates co-sponsored the bill, which is widely supported by casino workers’ rights groups but opposed by casino leaders.