Republican Atlantic City mayor concedes to Democrat
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City’s Republican mayor conceded defeat after a single term Tuesday after the city’s Democratic council president declared victory.
Frank Gilliam Jr. declared victory over Guardian, the first Republican to lead Atlantic City in a generation, who served a single term that saw five casinos close and the state seize control over the city’s assets and major decision-making power.
Gilliam, making his first run for mayor, rode public anger over the takeover instituted a year ago by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who said Guardian was either unable or unwilling to make the hard choices necessary to tame a half-billion-dollar debt in the seaside gambling resort.
“Atlantic City’s voters have spoken very loudly and clearly,” Gilliam said. “You can’t say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no.’”
With ballots still being counted, Gilliam declared victory and Guardian conceded less than two hours after the polls closed. Guardian said his campaign trailed by about 100 votes among those tallied on voting machines, but trailed by an unsurpassable margin among absentee ballots delivered to county election officials in advance.
Elsewhere in the state, a longtime Camden official was elected as the city’s new leader, one of several mayoral elections being held in New Jersey’s major cities.
Democratic City Council President Francisco “Frank” Moran coasted to victory in a race where no Republicans were in the race.
In Edison, Thomas Lankey was re-elected mayor by defeating Keith Hahn, the town’s former Democratic chairman who ran as a Republican in the mayoral race.
In Atlantic City, Guardian alleged a voter fraud operation run on behalf of Gilliam Jr., is paying people to vote Democratic. Guardian said he believed absentee ballots were cast on behalf of dead people and former residents.
The elections board did throw out one ballot found to have been cast in the name of a woman who died in 2015, but she had lived in Linwood, not Atlantic City. The prosecutor’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
Gilliam denies anyone from his campaign has done anything wrong, citing absentee ballots as a legal, time-honored way of collecting voter support.
Mayoral races were also held in Jersey City — where incumbent Steven Fulop won re-election by defeating challenger Bill Matsikoudis — and in Hoboken, where City Councilman Ravi Bhalla topped five other candidates in the race to succeed Dawn Zimmer, who decided not to seek a third term in office.
In Atlantic City, the former head of the city’s special improvement district, Guardian, 64, tried in vain to fight off a state takeover by Gov. Chris Christie, a fellow Republican, who became convinced Guardian was not willing to take the steps needed to fix the city’s finances in an era of slimmed-down gambling revenue.
Gilliam, 47, owns a student tutoring service and is completing a second four-year term on council. He supported Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy’s plan to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and faulted Guardian for not heading off a state takeover.
Murphy won the governor’s seat on Tuesday, beating GOP Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
For more on Tuesday’s New Jersey elections, go to https://www.apnews.com/tag/NewJerseyGovernor’sRace