• February 20, 2020

McClellan takes seat in the Assembly - Ocean City Sentinel: News

McClellan takes seat in the Assembly

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Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2020 10:48 am

TRENTON — When Assemblyman Antwan McClellan looks back on his life, he never dreamt that he’d be a state lawmaker. 

McClellan, 45, is a former Ocean City Councilman who represented the city’s Second Ward from 2012 until he left council in early 2020 to get sworn in after winning the First Legislative Assembly race with fellow Republican Lower Township Mayor Erik Simonsen.

“I never thought this,” McClellan said. “I never thought it at all. This was the farthest thing from my mind when I graduated high school with politics or anything like that.” 

McClellan graduated from Ocean City High School in 1993 and attended Virginia State University and Old Dominion University. 

He credits Ocean City Councilman and former Ocean City Board of Education member Pete Madden with piquing his interest in politics by getting him on the school board. City Council soon followed and with it a successful run for the Assembly. 

“I never thought about being in politics at all. I just wanted to help people. I wanted to give back to the people that gave to me, so I felt as though that was my best way to do it, and as I step up I want to continue to do that,” McClellan said.

On Jan.14, McClellan and Simonsen gathered with their families at Patriots Theater in Trenton and took their respective oaths of office for the General Assembly.

Both will represent the First Legislative District, which consists of Cape May County; Commercial Township, Downe Township, Fairfield Township, Greenwich Township, Hopewell Township, Lawrence Township, Millville, Maurice River Township, Shiloh Borough, Stow Creek Township and Vineland in Cumberland County; and Corbin City, Estell Manor and Weymouth Township in Atlantic County.

For McClellan, it’s a chance to make history. He’s now the first black Republican in the New Jersey Legislature since Tom Smith (R-Asbury Park) died in 2002.

McClellan and Simonsen join their fellow Republican, Vineland attorney Michael Testa, in representing District 1. Testa was sworn into the Senate on Dec.5. 

McClellan called his swearing in and taking his place in the Assembly “overwhelming.” 

“The activities that they put together for us and the buildup was unbelievable. To be up there and to see the support that we’ve had from Ocean City and Cape May County was great, too,” McClellan said. “We had a bus filled with 40 or 50 people that came up besides family.”

McClellan was appointed to the Assembly’s Tourism and Gaming Committee, the Appropriations Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. 

He said he would like to become involved in senior citizen issues. 

“It’s very important that we need to keep our seniors in our front mirror and not in our rearview mirror. Money and education and anything that they need I want to help,” McClellan said. “Any programs they need I want to make sure they’re taken care of.”

McClellan said it will be his task to become acquainted with other lawmakers in Trenton.

“I want to make sure I can effectuate the change I want here in Cape May County and Cumberland County for seniors,” McClellan said.

He noted the infant mortality rate is “pretty bad” in the district and wants to help young mothers-to-be get medical help they need.

“Hopefully I can effectuate that change and get out to the young mothers and let them know there’s a place for them to go so the infant mortality rate can get better,” he said.

He also wants to help with the state’s opioid addiction epidemic, which he characterized as “horrible.”

“There’s a lot of people fighting the fight for that. I know our sheriff is and prosecutor is. There’s a lot of good people fighting that fight. If I can help them in any way I will do that also,” McClellan said.

Simonsen noted his swearing-in ceremony “went above and beyond what I expected.” 

“They brought a bunch of our supporters in, which was really cool. We had to go into the State of the State address by the governor. All of the senators and Assembly people had to be present for the State of the State. My family got to come into the caucus room and they had a little reception,” Simonsen said.

Gov. Phil Murphy pitched a new millionaire’s tax, raising marginal income tax for those with incomes exceeding $1 million as a way of growing the middle class. 

Simonsen said there “was nothing new” with Murphy’s proposals. 

“There were no new groundbreaking ideas or anything. I still feel that financially we’re a state that’s burdened with too many taxes. Some of the things I just don’t agree with that are taking place,” Simonsen said.

He was appointed to the Assembly Education Committee, the State and Local Government Committee and the Community Development Committee. 

“They asked for volunteers for a joint committee on public schools which I also put in for,” Simonsen said. “It’s for dealing with different issues in public schools, which I think would be helpful down our way.”

While it’s unlikely McClellan’s council seat will be filled before the May municipal elections, Simonsen’s mayoral seat will be filled this week.

Simonsen said Lower Township council will choose a new mayor from choices provided by the local Republican Party. 

“The party that you’re from does an election within themselves and submit three names to council and council chooses one of the three names,” Simonsen said, adding the mayoral candidate will become mayor Wednesday, Jan. 22. 

Simonsen said he’s looking forward to working with other legislators in Trenton. 

“I’m going to be able to help local municipalities in our area to have another voice for them and give them some extra support for some of the things that other municipalities don’t feel it up north. We have the bayside, we have the seaside, we have the tourism, we have agriculture and farmland. Our part of the state is unique. It’s going to be great to help these local municipalities in Legislative District 1,” Simonsen said.

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