ATLANTIC CTY – The intersection of Craig Callaway and Don Guardian put a special spring in Mayor Marty Small’s step this cycle.
Small’s on the ballot, of course, for the seventh time in three years: the 2019 Primary and General; the recall election; the 2020 Primary and General; the 2021 Primary and now the General.
It all goes back to the corruption implosion of his predecessor.
This time it’s for a full, four-year term; and this time, the fact that both Callaway and Guardian are involved make him even more animated, and even more intent on victory.
He wants to teach both of them a lesson.
A former Republican mayor, Guardian wants an LD2 Assembly seat.
Small wants to make sure he doesn’t get it.
He also wants to punish Callaway, a former local Democratic Committee citywide and Pleasantville operator who opposes Small and routinely works for Republicans. As it turns out, a year after going to work for GOP Congressman Jeff Van Drew, the Callaway consulting company received $18,000 in two $9,000 payments in the general election reporting cycle from Republicans Claire Swift and, yes, Guardian.
Incumbent Democratic Mayor Lorenzo Langford went to sleep during the 2013 election cycle, when Guardian – a Republican – beat him.
Small doesn’t want Guardian to even snag an assembly seat.
“We don’t fall asleep,” the mayor told InsiderNJ in his office earlier today. “[The Mayor’s presence on the general election ballot] It’s going to pay dividends up and down the ticket. It’s not just about Mayor Small.”
It’s about Small and Guardian.
“I had a good relationship with him,” Small said. “I have absolutely no respect for him. He’s a liar. When it would benefit him he would say certain things.”
Then he would renege, according to the mayor.
Small says Guardian offered his support when Frank Gilliam went belly-up.
“The first chance he got to show that, he gave the residents of Atlantic City his true colors,” small said.
In short, the sitting mayor doesn’t forgive the former mayor for backing the change of government referendum in 2019.
The two of them fought a state takeover of Atlantic City government.
“The reason he fought that way was because he had me standing behind him,” Small said. “Now you say you’d rather have non-representative government? He was a poster boy for the change of government. He got smashed – and that’s what is going to happen. Atlantic City is not going to forget what Don Guardian did to them.”
Small won the 2020 general election with 71% of the vote, and the 2021 primary with 81%.
He wants to drive turnout to stampede Guardian.
But what about Callaway?
He’s pretty good with voter turnout himself.
“Who?” Small wanted to know.
“Who’s that? I don’t know who that is.
“Oh, that guy,” he finally admitted. “He’s out there. He snuck up on me in one election. I beat him the rest of the time. I’m not worrying about the person you’re talking about. Do I look like I’m intimidated? At the end of the day, I’m a man’s man. Some people don’t like what they can’t control. It says a lot about my organization. You go toe to toe with us, and we are always going to be on top. It speaks volumes of my team and my organization.”
Guardian wants to enlist Callaway?
Let him, the mayor says.
Former Mayor Guardian did not immediately return a call for comment.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Atlantic City source said:
“That makes sense to me. Marty went out on a real limb when he endorsed Guardian’s reelection. Don returned the favor by supporting the referendum to eliminate parties position. Did not even have the decency to tell him something personally before the mailers started coming out.”
For his part, Small describes “unprecedented synergy” for his reelection.
“It works wonders,” he said, noting the presence of fellow Democrats President Joe Biden and Governor Phil Murphy in office. “I’ve had a great opportunity to be endorsed by Governor Murphy the past two years, and endorsed by Senators Booker and Menendez.
“When I win, the city wins,” Small added.