Atlantic City has a new mayor.
“With that, it’s over,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford said as he prepared to concede the race when he saw Republican challenger Don Guardian’s lead was too much to overcome with two districts still out.
Unofficial results from the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office showed Guardian with 3,066 votes to 2,904 for Langford, with all 21 districts reporting. John W. McQueen Jr. had 145 votes.
“It’s very humbling,” said Guardian, who admitted he worried down to the last few districts as the numbers came in for the tight race.
“Sometimes David beats Goliath,” the mayor-elect told supporters who crowded into the Tun Tavern to hear him claim victory. He joked about writing three speeches, including a concession speech and one if the race were “too close to call.”
Those who gathered cheered that he didn't need to give either one of those. Before the speech, he admitted he was unsure victory would come.
Guardian, who is openly gay, joked during his speech about his partner, Louis Fatato, bringing him back to normal Wednesday by having him cook and clean.
Councilmen George Tibbitt, Frank Gilliam and Mo Delgado easily won re-election. But Guardian crossed party lines to defeat the longtime mayor and become the first Republican leader since the city went to partisan elections in 2001.
Langford had said he would win on his record. But Guardian countered that the record was one of higher taxes, fewer services and wasteful spending that has brought on state oversight and could bankrupt the city in three years.
“I don’t think party matters,” said Mihaela Mihneva, 26, who became a U.S. citizen three years ago, and voted for President Barack Obama last year in her first election.
Now, she wonders when driving to work at the Revel, why the current leadership hasn’t been able to pave the roads.
“I drive Pacific Avenue, it’s horrible,” she said. “Atlantic City should be paradise when people come here.”
But Hanifah Beyah said Langford has cleaned up her neighborhood, Stanley Holmes Village. She used to be afraid of letting her son, 6, and granddaughter, 5, out to play. Things are better now.
“He cleaned it up,” Beyah said.
She admits not seeing the change when Langford was first elected, but “it takes time.”
“He’s the best mayor we could ask for,” she says now.
Khalid Butt said he has always voted Democrat, but this year is supporting Guardian.
Langford, he said, is too political and looking out only “for his cronies. ... We need someone who can take the whole city with him.”
That man is Guardian, he said. The 150 Atlantic City members of the Pakistani-American Muslim Organization of South Jersey agreed when they endorsed the Republican.
“We need a change,” said Tami Oglesby, 43, a lifelong resident.
She used to perform on the Boardwalk in children’s revues when she was young, but there is nothing like that for the children in Atlantic City today.
“I want more, especially for the kids and single mothers,” she said. “Just more.”
After a brief celebration at headquarters, Mayor-elect Guardian’s group then headed to the Tun Tavern in three jitneys for the victory celebration.
He said he had not heard from Langford, who gave his concession speech to a group stunned into silence.
“I don’t want anyone to feel bad,” he said. “We ran a good race.”
At Atlantic County Democratic headquarters at the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, party members quietly listened as Chairman Jim Schroeder told them Guardian won.
State Sen. Jim Whelan looked over a reporter’s computer, saw the tallies and said, “It’s not even that close. Huh.”
“Don Guardian worked very, very hard, he ran a very aggressive campaign, and obviously it all paid off,” Whelan said.
Whelan, who served three terms as the resort mayor in the 1990s, said he looked forward to talking with Guardian about the resort’s future.
Staff Writer Derek Harper contributed to this report.
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