Redd wins in Camden primary

Camden Mayor Dana Redd
Camden Mayor Dana Redd
Posted: June 06, 2013

Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd will run again in November under her "Moving Camden Forward" slogan.

The first-term mayor beat her Democratic opponent, Theo Spencer, 37, in Tuesday's primary, which drew only about 2,300 voters.

Redd will face Republican challenger Arnold Davis, a tax adviser and Burlington County College public-safety union grievance officer, and a couple of recognizable names running as independents in the general election.

City Councilman Brian Coleman, who won his seat in 2011 as the party-backed candidate, has decided to run against Redd, his former Camden County Democratic Committee running mate.

"The city is going in the wrong direction," Coleman said Tuesday, adding that sitting in Council meetings "changed his whole outlook."

He cited the city's move to a county police force and the issuance of new tax abatements as reasons for disagreeing with the coalition that once supported him and that he once supported.

"We lose sight of who we are supposed to serve, and it's the people," Coleman said.

If elected mayor, he said, he would work on getting back a city police force, creating jobs, and building a different tax structure by eliminating abatements known as PILOTs, or Payments in Lieu of Taxes.

"We need a new way of doing business in Camden," he said.

Bringing businesses to Camden seemed to be the theme of Redd's challengers.

Former Voorhees pastor Amir Khan, whose controversial plan to open a charter school in Cherry Hill was denied by the state last year, has been living in Camden since October. He said he is ready to give residents "change."

Khan, 56, is running under the slogan of "New Leadership for Real Change," which also features three independent candidates for the three Council at-large seats: Ronsha Dickeron, Felix Moulier, and Scott Shepherd.

Khan said his team would focus on "SAFE": security, academics, family, and economics. His "biggest strength" is economics, he said, adding that he has several business owners lined up to open shops in the city.

However, some people in the community already were lambasting him for using the New Jersey HomeKeeper Program, which offers up to $48,000 in forgivable mortgage assistance to New Jersey homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes, to financially support Solid Rock Worship, where he was pastor for 20 years.

Khan said the church and adjacent house in Voorhees in which he lived before moving to Camden went into foreclosure because of money spent in the two years he worked to try to open the charter school. He retired as pastor of Solid Rock in January to focus on campaigning.

Khan and his wife purchased and operate the Royal Palace banquet and catering hall in Voorhees. But Khan said his roots have always been in Camden.

"I'm doing this because someone needs to be standing for the people" of Camden, Khan said Tuesday.

His late father, Mustifa, was a well-known doctor whose practice served the city's poor for decades. His son, Micah, runs the Nehemiah Group, which works primarily on transitioning prisoners back into society.

In 2010, Amir and Micah Khan were involved in moving an entire tent city from Camden to the Inn of Cherry Hill while the Khans worked to find the 50-some tent city residents alternative housing. Only some were successfully placed.

Also running as an independent is Clyde Cook of East Camden.

Redd, who in recent months has been seen as cozying up to Gov. Christie, started her day campaigning at a meet-and-greet in North Camden with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono.

In the last few months Redd and Christie have held joint announcements on the state takeover of Camden schools and the transition to a county-run police force. Both issues have been controversial with residents.

Redd did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

City Council Vice President Curtis Jenkins and Councilwoman Marilyn Torres, whose at-large terms are up this year, are seeking reelection and won Tuesday night's primary. Both have generally supported the mayor's agenda.

Arthur Barclay, who also won in the primary, is running under the county Democratic Party establishment banner as a replacement for Deborah Person-Polk, who withdrew her petition for reelection. Her three-year term is up this year. Barclay is an assistant basketball coach at Camden High School, where he was once a star player.

The only Republican running for an at-large Council seat, Angel Cordero, embraces school choice, saying he wants vouchers for everyone.

Independents Moneke Ragsdale, Rasheed Pollard, Gary Frazier, John Freeman, Benigno Pino Rodriguez, Reginald Gaines, and Steve Lee are also vying for a Council seat.

Contact Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917,, or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," at flow.

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