Don Guardian has raised more money than any Republican during an Atlantic City mayoral primary since the first year the city's elections went partisan in 2001.
But Mayor Lorenzo Langford has still outraised his challenger nearly 4 to 1 - and the Democratic incumbent's most recent numbers are not yet known. Langford's campaign has not filed its 20-day post-election (primary) finance report with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, which was due last month.
"We were a little lax in getting it out," said Michael Harvey, Langford's campaign manager, adding that the papers should be filed next week.
Langford's 11-day pre-election report, filed May 29, shows he raised $58,135. Guardian's June 24 total was $15,285.19. That's nearly twice what Republican Jesse O. Kurtz raised in the 2011 primary election.
"I'm very excited we were able to raise over $15,000 for the primary," Guardian said Monday. "I really saw it as good faith from supporters across the city."
Guardian said he has been encouraged by backing from people across party lines and insists he will be the mayor "for everyone in Atlantic City."
"He's not divisive," Atlantic City Republican Chairman Mark Padula said. "He doesn't divide people, he brings them together."
The city's municipal elections went to the partisan form in 2001, and resulted in the ouster of then-Mayor James Whelan, who chose to run as an independent rather than risk losing to Langford in the Democratic primary. That year, Ed McGettigan - then council president - raised more than $22,000 as the Republican candidate. At that time, Langford had raised more than $110,000.
McGettigan ended up dropping out of the race shortly after the primary, with many saying he ran only to guarantee a two-man race between Langford and Whelan.
Since then, most Republican candidates in the city running for either mayor or council have raised little, with ELEC records showing most didn't need to file specifics on their funds since they raised less than the minimum requirement, which has gone from $3,500 in the early years to $4,500 this year.
In 2003, then-incumbent Councilmen Tim Mancuso and Dennis Mason raised $24,736 and $16,790, respectively as Republicans running in the Sixth and Fifth wards. Mancuso is still on City Council, but as a Democrat.
Mason also launched a mayoral campaign in 2005, raising more than $13,000 in the primary.
But it's not just about money, said Padula, pointing out that Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine lost to Republican Chris Christie in 2009 despite outspending his challenger 3 to 1.
"Any time you're outspent, it's a difficult hurdle," Padula said. "I think what it's going to take is people believing, as we do, that Don's going to win in November. He's going to change the direction of Atlantic City. He's going to improve the quality of life for everyone in Atlantic City."
But Harvey said the residents don't know Guardian, who he claims has done nothing for the city beyond his job heading the Special Improvement District.
"The mayor is extremely involved in the community," Harvey said, pointing to trips the mayor took with students a few years ago and events he has held in his neighborhood. "I don't think there's anybody, even his detractors, who can say the mayor has not been involved in the community and community events."
Guardian said he has been active since he came to the city 24 years ago, including belonging to boards such as the Boys & Girls Club and Rotary Club.
He said he also has been able to balance the SIDs budget for two decades, "through good times and bad." That's something, he charges, the mayor has not done with the current budget that will raise taxes 22 percent.
"I've just heard rumors about how he's going to bring the budget down," Harvey said of Guardian. "But theses are things no mayor can do. Things that are beyond the mayor's control."
Guardian plans to visit 5,000 homes between now and Election Day, Padula said. That means he will knock on about 300 doors every time he goes out.
"Nothing is impossible," Harvey said of a Republican win. "But it's highly unlikely. I think the mayor's base is strong and getting stronger."
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cash in A.C. mayoral races
2013 Don Guardian $15,285.19
2011 Jesse O. Kurtz $8,312.92
2009 Jesse O. Kurtz less than $3,500
2008 John McQueen less than $3,500
2003-05 No Republican candidate
2001 Ed McGettigan $22,111.10
(Numbers are 20-day post primary
Source: New Jersey ELEC reports