Election 2017: Key seats change parties in A.C. area

File photo Atlantic City's casinos had a strong month in September.

While election night was a near-sweep for Democrats across the state, one important state Senate seat turned Republican: Legislative District 2.

Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown bucked the Democrat-turning trend to capture the state Senate seat of the late Democrat Jim Whelan, which encompasses most of Atlantic County.

Brown said he is looking forward to sitting down and getting to work now that the hard-run campaign is over.

“We need to diversify the economy, work on the foreclosure crisis and find a way to make sure Atlantic County gets its fair share,” he said.

To do that, Brown said Atlantic City needs a comprehensive plan, one that looks five years out.

In his short time in Trenton as an assemblyman, Brown said he saw plans that last about three weeks, with a new plan coming out that had no connection to the previous one.

“Any business or organization starts with an at least five-year business plan,” he said.

Brown also wants to push through a bill that the late Whelan also supported, which would extend the state Growth Zone around the airport, making use of the three big assets there: the Stockton Aviation Research and Technology Park, the William J. Hughes Technical Center and the Atlantic City International Airport.

Atlantic City also saw a party change when Republican Mayor Don Guardian was ousted by Democratic Councilman Frank Gilliam.

The change in party is less of an issue at the local level — and it certainly didn’t help when Guardian was in office as he constantly butted heads with Republican Gov. Chris Christie. But it figures to take on more meaning since Democrat Phil Murphy won the gubernatorial election and cites revitalizing the Atlantic City area as a top goal.

So says Michael Busler, an economist and public policy analyst at Stockton University.

“Typically, the Republican position is to be less regulatory, more business-friendly, and keeping taxes as low as possible,” he said. “Murphy is a little more socially oriented and it is expected he will raise some taxes, probably business taxes, and that will have a negative impact on business.”

But, regardless of who won, the residents of Atlantic City need to see it come back. And all candidates, regardless of party, know that.

There was a loss of jobs and a dip in the population due to casinos closing, and, as a result, a flood of housing available when people walked away, Busler said.

The lack of help at that time exacerbated the problem.

But, because the city bottomed out, a trend that began in 2006, Busler said, there is hope that a decade later there may be an improvement.

“We have turned a corner, finally, and I am for the first time in 10 years somewhat optimistic about the future of Atlantic City,” he said.