Republican Atlantic City mayoral candidate Don Guardian, right, and neighbor Rochelle "Shelle" Jefferson.

Republican Don Guardian said he is running for mayor of Atlantic City so that he can bring the same services seen in the Tourism District to the entire city.

The longtime head of the city’s Special Improvement District officially announced his candidacy Tuesday evening in front of a group crowded into the Civil Rights Garden on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“When I have a crazy hectic day, this is where I sneak to for my comfort and my soul,” he said of choosing that spot, adding that people were missing out if they had not read the quotes engraved on the sculptures there.

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His focus will be on making the streets safe for residents, job creation and getting spending down, including avoiding what he said would be a 25 percent tax increase next year if Mayor Lorenzo Langford stays at the helm.

Republicans have not posed much competition in the city since the 2001 move to partisan elections. In 2009, the party’s Jesse O. Kurtz received just 22 percent of the vote, a good showing compared to John McQueen’s 9 percent the year before.

“Nobody ever thought there would be the day we’d have a viable Republican candidate for mayor of Atlantic City,” Atlantic County Freeholder Frank Formica said.

But many said they believe Guardian, 59, can do it.

“I feel in my heart, he’s going to win,” said Guardian’s longtime neighbor in The Cove, Rochelle “Shelle” Jefferson, who introduced Guardian at the event.

The lifelong Democrat said she doesn’t vote for the party, but for the person, and her neighbor is a person she believes in.

Those speaking on Guardian’s behalf included Atlantic County Freeholders John Risley and Joseph McDevitt, and county Sheriff Frank Balles, who is running for state senator against the Democratic incumbent — former Atlantic City Mayor Jim Whelan.

Balles grew up in Atlantic City and has seen the work Guardian’s staff has done with the SID, which was consolidated into the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in 2011 and is now the Special Improvement Division.

“What I do here in the Tourism District — if you elect me mayor — I will do it for all the residents of Atlantic City,” Guardian said to applause.

Guardian invited people to bring him their “challenges,” whether when they see him on the street, through his website at or via email at

“I not only will listen to your challenges, I will try to find solutions to your challenges,” he said. “You are going to see me walking your neighborhood. Biking your neighborhood. Because every neighborhood will be my neighborhood.”

Democrats who will challenge Langford for the nomination include Atlantic County Freeholder Charles Garrett and retired Atlantic City Police Officer and PBA President David Davidson Jr.

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