ATLANTIC CITY – Mayor Don Guardian has conceded the mayor’s race here to challenger Councilman Frank Gilliam.
Guardian appeared before supporters inside his campaign headquarters around 9:30 p.m.
“The voters have spoken and they’ve elected Frank Gilliam,” Guardian said.
With only a hint of emotion in his voice, Guardian announced his entire council slate had also lost their races. Guardian called Gilliam to concede minutes before yet got the mayor-elect’s voicemail.
“I congratulated him and promised him a smooth transition,” Guardian said.
The mood Guardian’s campaign headquarters turned slowly to calm resignation as Election Night wore on.
With Guardian’s Democratic rivals all but declaring victory as the poll numbers trickled in, Guardian’s people assessed the numbers and didn’t like what they saw.
“Ain’t looking too good,” said Council President Marty Small, before returning to Guardian and his campaign team huddling in the back of a pizza shop-turned-campaign nerve center.
When Guardian upset Mayor Lorenzo Langford four years ago, he was the unlikliest of choices for a town like Atlantic City. Now, supporters are bracing for a course correction that may have been inevitable. And they are thinking about what life without Don Guardian in City Hall looks like.
“To me it means it’s, one, a sad day,” Atlantic City Republican Club chair Mike Lopez said. “Because of the things that are happening, coming around the corner, that he’s been a maverick for.”
“He’s found money where there’s no money, ” Lopez said of Guardian.
Lopez was one of the first but likely not the last to cast Guardian as a victim of South Jersey power broker George Norcross.
“If it’s Frank, I don’t see them being for Atlantic City,” Lopez said. “It’s no secret their Camden County-funded.”
Guardian leaves a legacy as an innovative mayor who was a literally tireless advocate for the troubled gambling mecca by the sea.