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4 Democrats, 1 Republican seeking to be Atlantic City mayor

Wayne Parry, Associated Press

In this Jan. 20, 2016 photo, Atlantic City, N.J. Mayor Don Guardian, left, and City Council President Marty Small, right, speak at a press conference in Trenton, N.J. after seeking help from state officials for their cash-strapped city. Guardian is running unopposed in the June Republican primary; Small is one of four Democrats running for their party's nomination to oppose him in November. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- The mayor will run unopposed in the Republican primary this June, but four Democrats are lining up for the right to take him on in November.

The question of why is another matter altogether: The winner will inherit an office largely void of power since the state seized most power in Atlantic City last fall.

Mayor Don Guardian was the lone Republican to meet Monday's filing deadline. He is seeking a second term after a tumultuous four years in which five of the city's 12 casinos shut down and Gov. Chris Christie, a fellow Republican, spearheaded a takeover of his cash-strapped city.

On the Democratic side, City Councilmen Marty Small and Frank Gilliam are running, as are substitute teacher Fareed Abdullah and U.S. Navy veteran Jimmy Whitehead.

Small is making his second run for mayor. He often fought side by side with Guardian in opposing the state takeover, but he says he can do a better job under difficult circumstances, as does Gilliam.

Abdullah, a frequent candidate for City Council, has been a critic of city government.

Whitehead says Atlantic City needs to turn from casinos toward aviation and cybersecurity to create new jobs.

Joseph Polillo, a former city official and frequent mayoral candidate, had announced his intention to challenge Guardian in the GOP primary but decided at the last minute to run as an independent in November.

The state takeover is likely to be the dominant issue in the election.

Christie pushed for the state takeover, saying Atlantic City's leaders are either unwilling or unable to make the difficult choices to turn around the city's finances and reduce its nearly $500 million debt.

His administration has negotiated a tax settlement with the Borgata casino under which the city will pay the casino $72 million instead of the full $165 million it owed due to successful tax appeals.

A state overseer is pushing for steep cuts to the city's police and fire departments.

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This story has been corrected to show that Small is making his second run for mayor, not third.

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