Republican Don Guardian won an upset victory in Atlantic City's mayoral race Tuesday over longtime incumbent Democrat Lorenzo Langford, and immediately vowed to repair relations between the city and newly re-elected Gov. Chris Christie, with whom Langford had long fought.
"I'm going to open the doors of communication with our governor and create an atmosphere where we can attract new jobs and investment to Atlantic City," he said.
Guardian is head of the city's special improvement district, an area overseen by a state-run authority under Christie's five-year plan to turn around Atlantic City's struggling fortunes.
"I have a wonderful relationship with the state and I see them as our partner," he said.
With all precincts reporting, Guardian was ahead by 162 votes out of more than 6,100 cast.
His campaign said Tuesday night that of the approximately 850 absentee ballots submitted in the election, 650 were collected and submitted by Guardian's campaign, although they hadn't yet been opened and counted.
In his concession speech, Langford said, "I don't want anyone to feel bad. We ran a good race," The Press of Atlantic City reported.
Independent candidate John McQueen got 145 votes.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in Atlantic City by 9 to 1.
Guardian would be the first Republican to lead the seaside gambling resort since 1990. That was the year voters turned Mayor James Usry out of office following an indictment charging him with political corruption in a sting that all but collapsed months later. Usry pleaded guilty to a campaign finance law violation and was sentenced to 60 hours' community service.
Langford, a former casino dealer, previously ran the city from 2002 to 2005 and won a special election in 2008 and a full term in 2009.
Langford was mayor when both Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy swamped his city. Right after Sandy hit, Christie, with whom Langford has clashed repeatedly, blasted him for not fully evacuating the city. Langford rejected the criticism and defended his handling of the storm and its aftermath.