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‘Read Your Bible,’ Assemblyman Urges

Antwan McClellan is happy to serve Cape May County

By Rachel Rogish

OCEAN CITY – “We can work together,” said Assemblyman Antwan McClellan (R-1st), seated in his office, June 15.  

Born and raised in Ocean City, McClellan, 46, is navigating his second year as an assemblyman on the Republican ticket. He faced opposition on the campaign trail, yet persevered. McClellan seeks to better understand the constituents he represents, regardless of their background and ethnicity.  

How does McClellan handle politics and racial tension that divide so many? McClellan spoke candidly, revealing that faith shines brightest in unexpected places, including the New Jersey State House.   

 

A Shore Thing 

Born in 1975, McClellan grew up the youngest of six children. His parents, Lawrence and Cora Mae, faithfully attended Shiloh Baptist Church, in Ocean City, instilling principles of faith and compassion in McClellan.  

According to McClellan, his father’s side of the family includes several pastors. He attributes his success in life to God and his family. McClellan said he learned to allow “God to guide him.” 

McClellan returned to Cape May County after graduating from Old Dominion University, in Virginia, and worked in the casino industry.  

 

Helping Hands 

From 2010-2012, McClellan served on the Ocean City School Board before running for Ocean City Council, where he was the second African American to hold a seat.  

“It was a big challenge,” McClellan said. “I had no experience. 

All McClellan could do was “be himself,” and present “a younger, fresher voice” in local politics. He endured criticism for a period of homelessness he experienced after Hurricane Sandy, in 2012.  

Undeterred, as the youngest councilman, McClellan desired to protect and listen to seniors while empowering the next generation.  

“Our foundation is built on our seniors,” McClellan said.  

He said his belief in God, and Jesus Christ, stabilized him in working with people of different religions and backgrounds.  

 

Courage Under Fire  

In November 2019, McClellan cast “his hat in the ring” for state assemblyman. He found an unexpected friend in Erik Simonsen, Lower Township’s former mayor, who also ran.  

Today, Simonsen and McClellan still pray and support each other as fellow Christians seeking to serve the public. McClellan is the first African American to represent Cape May and Cumberland counties in the Assembly.  

In a political mailer, McClellan said political opponents portrayed him with a darker face. McClellan said he faces racism with this attitude: “God wants me here.”  

“We are not all the same,” McClellan explained.  

He strives to respect the journey and experiences of others.  

“I take people at face value. I respect where you come from,” he added. 

McClellan took the oath of office just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the nation, in 2020.  

 

Healing and Growth 

As the pandemic wanes, McClellan is hopeful for the county’s recovery, especially for small businesses and tourism.  

“I want to help them have all the tools they need to open,” McClellan said. 

In a time where trust in public officials is shaken, McClellan said the way forward is by caring for others.  

“I live as a Black man. I’ve been pulled over by police,” McClellan said.  

Yet, anger and hate are not the answers, according to the assemblyman. 

“They (police officers) need to go home to their families at the end of the night,” McClellan stated.  

He also looks forward to seeing the Harriet Tubman Museum, in Cape May, open for the 2021 season.  

“It’s exciting to know that Harriet Tubman was in our backyard,” he said.  

 

Word of Grace 

For those who are struggling and seeking truth, McClellan urges them to “read your Bible.”  

“The Bible will never let you down. God will never lead you astray,” he said.  

As restrictions continue to ease, McClellan encourages residents and guests to visit local churches while understanding that faith, in its essence, can’t be contained by four walls alone.  

McClellan is grateful for staff members and other public officials serving the community, including the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office, where he works as the personnel director.  

“People are just people,” McClellan concluded.  

Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share shouldcontactthewriteratrrogish@cmcherald.com. 

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