Ventnor Mayor Beth Maccagnano Holtzman.

VENTNOR – Just a month after announcing she would run with Atlantic County Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica in the 2019 race for New Jersey Assembly in District 2, Ventnor Mayor Beth Maccagnano Holtzman said she would drop out of the race for health reasons.

Holtzman, 56, announced Nov. 18 that she and Formica joined forces to run for the New Jersey State Assembly in 2019. She cited combatting addiction and school security as two issues she would focus on, while Formica said he would like to reform the voting system and the way mail-in ballots are handled by third parties.

On Tuesday, Dec. 4 Holtzman had a follow-up visit with her neurosurgeon, who recently repaired two of three herniated discs in her spine, and he advised her that the rigors of campaigning could aggravate the third disc, which could require additional fusion surgery.

“He said it was like I was ‘poking a tiger hoping not to get bit,’” Holtzman said in a telephone interview Saturday morning.

Holtzman said Dr. Andrew Glass advised her that she was putting herself “at 200 percent greater risk” of needing additional surgery.

“Campaigning is a grueling activity,” her running mate, Formica said. “I wish her well and understand her decision.”

Although Formica thinks Holtzman has the demeanor to take on issues and would follow through and be passionate, “the last thing you want to do is start campaigning and then drop out.”

“I know what we did when we were running on the Imagine Ventnor campaign,” Holtzman said about her 2015 campaign. “I’m dealing now with limitations I didn’t have before and don’t want to put my long-term disability at risk.”

Atlantic County Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica.

Although she believes she is fully capable of winning the race for higher office, dropping out of the Assembly race means she can focus on continuing the progress made in Ventnor, she said.

Her first term as commissioner and mayor does not expire until 2020, at which time she hopes to be re-elected, she said.

“The Imagine Ventnor team has done a lot and I’d like to continue that,” she said.

Holtzman said when Commissioners Tim Kriebel and Lance Landgraf heard that she would drop from the Assembly race, they were pleased they could again consider running as a team, she said.

From left, Ventnor Commissioners Beth Holtzman, Tim Kriebel and Lance Landgraf.

Formica, 66, who was narrowly re-elected in November over Democrat challenger Celeste Fernandez for a fourth term as freeholder-at-large, said he would continue his candidacy for the Assembly.

Other local Republicans hoping to get the nod from the Atlantic County Republican Party when its convention is held in March 2019 include Freeholder John Risley, Somers Point Councilman James Toto and Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther.

“The more the merrier,” Formica said. “The last thing you want is to start begging for candidates because nobody wants to run. What’s good is when you have a whole bunch of greatly qualified candidates to choose from.”

Formica said that if he is not one of two candidates selected by the party to oppose incumbent Democrats Vince Mazzeo of Northfield and John Armato of Buena Vista Township, he would not take on an independent campaign.

“If the delegates pick someone else, I will not only wholeheartedly support them, I will go out and raise money for their campaigns,” he said.

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.