From left, Assembly candidate Erik Simonsen and Senate candidate Michael Testa join with Assembly candidate Antwan McClellan on the Republican side in the First District legislative race.

 By Tim Kelly

Antwan McClellan, Ocean City’s Second Ward Councilman, has announced his candidacy in the New Jersey District 1 Assembly race.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a few months,” said McClellan, 44. “I would like to see our Assembly representation get younger and have the opportunity to make positive change.”

McClellan and running mate Erik Simonsen, the mayor of Lower Township, were endorsed last week at the Cumberland County GOP convention, and are expected to gain the nod in Cape May County at its Republican convention in Avalon on Wednesday.

They will challenge Democrats R. Bruce Land, who has served in the Assembly since 2016, and Matthew Milam, who was appointed to the Assembly in January. Milam filled the vacancy created by Robert Andrzejczak, who resigned from the Assembly in early January to take an appointed seat in the state Senate.

Assembly District 1 includes all of Cape May County, parts of Cumberland County (Maurice River Township, Vineland and Millville) and Atlantic County (Corbin City, Estell Manor and Weymouth Township).

McClellan is the Confidential Assistant/Personnel Director/Public Information Officer in the Cape May County Sheriff’s Department. He said that if elected, his top priorities would be to “reduce government spending, lower taxes, stop overregulation that has hindered employers and job creation to help New Jersey families thrive.”

Second Ward Councilman Antwan McClellan, joined by his mother, Cola Mae, takes the oath of office from New York Supreme Court Justice Ronald Hollie in 2016.

McClellan and Simonsen’s names will be on the Republican column of the ballot in November. If elected, McClellan said he would resign his position on Council, although he will take his local representation style with him.

“I am not a career politician,” he said. “I’m a common guy who wants to bring the important issues of common people to Trenton. I will do just what I’ve been doing in Ocean City: listen to the people and bring their voice to the table. We’ve been successful doing that in Ocean City and we want to take the same approach statewide.”

A 1993 graduate of Ocean City High School, McClellan attended Virginia State University and Old Dominion University. He was elected to Council in 2012 to a four-year term and was re-elected in 2016, running unopposed. 

A lifelong Ocean City resident, he is the youngest of six siblings, five of whom graduated from OCHS.  McClellan says he went into public service “because I’m committed to the community and its people.”

In addition to his work on Council, McClellan has served as a member of the Ocean City Board of Education, as a trustee on the Ocean City Historical Museum and as a volunteer for the South Jersey Field of Dreams, which provides the opportunity for special needs children to participate in sports programs.

McClellan said that he hopes to take a collaborative approach to being a state legislator.

“I will go to the people, hear what they have to say and do my best to be their voice,” he said. “Just because I have an ‘R’ after my name or someone else has a ‘D’ after their name doesn’t mean we can’t work together for the betterment of the community. My job would be to listen to all points of view. And I would hope people would listen to me. Collaboration is how things get done.”

Antwan McClellan accepts an award honoring the late Ocean City civic leader Dick Grimes from then-state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, now a congressman, during a 2018 ceremony.