In Camden, little suspense so far in mayor's race

Camden Mayor Dana Redd (right) with City Council President Frank Moran, who will run as her replacement. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Standing before a crowd assembled at Camden’s City Hall last week, Mayor Dana Redd could have been describing a newly elected official as she endorsed Council President Francisco “Frank” Moran as the city’s next leader.

“He knows what will be needed in the weeks, months, and years ahead in order to continue the progress we are seeing in our beloved Camden,” said Redd, who is not seeking a third term.

With Moran at the helm, Redd said, “we will not skip a beat.”

There was barely a mention of the November election that will ultimately determine whether Moran becomes the city’s next mayor. For years, such races have been seen as mere formalities in the heavily Democratic city of 77,000, where voter turnout is often below 20 percent and candidates backed by South Jersey’s political network coast to easy victories.

But Moran said last week that he intends to mount a vigorous campaign, and that in the coming days he will outline a platform that focuses on creating local jobs, rebuilding the city’s roads, and investing in local resources such as parks.

“I’m not taking anything for granted,” Moran, 48, said. “Rest assured that my campaign and my team will be making the maximum effort to reach out to every constituent in the city.”

Last week Redd also indicated she would campaign for Moran, saying that as a councilman he has done “what was necessary to advance the Camden agenda.”

Moran is running along with three candidates for City Council: incumbents Curtis Jenkins and Angel Fuentes, as well as Sheila Davis, a longtime community activist whose name was first floated as a possible council candidate last year. The deadline for candidates to file to run in the race is Monday, and the primary election is in June.

A lifelong resident of the city, Moran lives in East Camden with his wife and has two adult children. He was elected to City Council 20 years ago and has since held a number of city and county government positions, including his current role as director of the Camden County Parks Department. If elected mayor, Moran said, he will resign from that job.

When he appeared alongside Redd last week, Moran also said he would seek to build on the accomplishments of her tenure, such as recent development sparked by a state tax-incentive program that has drawn a number of large companies to town.

Redd has presided over a period of tremendous, sometimes turbulent change in Camden. Beginning her first term as mayor at the tail end of an eight-year state takeover of the city, she has often aligned herself with powerful state and county officials and advocated for sometimes-controversial plans that some residents see as a top-down approach to governing, such as the 2013 dismantling of the city’s police department and creation of a new county-led force. That same year, when Gov. Christie announced a takeover of the city’s struggling school system, Redd stood by his side -- to the dismay of some longtime residents.

Moran has offered effusive praise for Redd, encouraging members of last week’s audience at City Hall to stand on their feet to applaud her, and said he was honored by her support.

If successful this fall, Moran said, he will ensure that residents have a direct line of communication with City Hall.

“The prime focus will be the communities, all of our people living and working here,” he said. “Dana Redd is leaving, but people are going to be in good hands.”