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Surprise in Atlantic City: A new mayor

In an outcome nobody expected, Don Guardian, who heads the city's Special Improvement District, upset Mayor Lorenzo Langford. He becomes the city's first openly gay mayor.

Amy S. Rosenberg / Inquirer Staff Writer

There was an election surprise in New Jersey after all.

In Atlantic City, where Mayor Lorenzo Langford, a local political fixture and Gov. Christie Saturday Night Live punching bag, was expected to win without problem, voters did a pivot. They elected Don Guardian, 60, the executive director of the city's Special Improvement District for the last 20 years.

Guardian, who will be the city's first openly gay mayor, said at his victory celebration at the Tun Tavern, where somewhat stunned supporters were pouring in all night, that he was "humbled" and surprised. He attributed his victory to hard work by a coalition of Pakistani, Bangedeshi and Vietnamese business people, Latino teachers and young business people like Mike Hauke of Tony Baloney's who've staked their livelihoods in a city whose fortunes seemed to be shakier than ever.

Gotta hand it to Atlantic City voters - they had something up their sleeve.

Said Saleh Ahmed, a Bangledeshi shop owner: "We worked for months." Kyle Tracy, 21, a casino worker, led a group of young volunteers to get out the vote Tuesday. Also stopping by the Tun Tavern was Rick Mazer, the new regional president at Harrah's, who said the casino industry would look forward to working with Guardian. The mayor-elect said he would seek a detente with Borgata and other casinos in the wake of Borgata's recent $50 million tax appeal victory. Judah Dorrington, daughter of great A.C. African American professional hockey pioneer Art Dorrington who brought Guardian door to door in her mostly black Westside neighborhood, said the gathering at the Tavern represented her vision of a new Atlantic City: "a multi-cultural town working together."

As for the Republican Guardian, he said voters all over the city had the same concerns: safety, infrastructure improvements, high taxes, not wanting to be left out of the equation with the state's attention to the Tourism District, run by Guardian's current employer, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. "I want to bring the city together," Guardian said. "I want to be a mayor for everybody."