There’s a shakeup underway in Toms River’s Republican circles, with a maverick contingent led by a current councilman set to challenge the party-favored candidates who are running for mayor and council.
Councilman Dan Rodrick leads the ticket, seeking to replace fellow Republican Thomas Kelaher as mayor. The regular Republican organization has tapped former Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato for the seat.
In a press release heavy on references to indicted party chairman George R. Gilmore and various high-density real estate development projects ongoing in town, Rodrick said his team represents a conservative, anti-development slate of candidates. Rodrick was first elected as a Democrat to the council, but quickly switched to the GOP after opposing Gov. Phil Murphy’s policies, especially his deal with Sen. President Steve Sweeney to cut tens of millions of dollars from Toms River schools.
Rodrick’s ticket includes a former candidate, Justin Lamb, a local attorney and police officer who mounted a legitimate challenge in the primary election against longtime incumbent Councilwoman Maria Maruca, though Maruca went on to win both the primary race as well as the general election to keep her seat. Lamb’s father serves as a councilman in Lavallette.
GOP Councilman Maurice “Mo” Hill is also planning to mount a primary challenge against the favored Coronato, however is not running as part of a completely separate slate of candidates.
The regular Republicans are supporting labor leader John Meehan, school board member Ginny Rhine and Christian Momm, a pharmaceutical executive, for the available seats on council. Meanwhile, Rodrick’s ticket includes Lamb, Dr. Ken Londregin, a vice principal in the Old Bridge Township school district and engineer George Lobman, who serves as director of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association.
The group came out swinging in a scathing statement issued to the press over the weekend.
“Mayoral candidate Joe Coronato is a land use attorney who has made a career out of getting developers what they want,” the group said. “As an attorney, he represented developers in front of both the planning and zoning boards. Mr. Cornato’s work made possible the recent construction of both Riverwood Chase and Cox Cro Crossing, both high density complexes in North Dover.”
The statement called the regular Republicans a “slate of unelectable, pro-development candidates with a bad record on taxes” led by George Gilmore, who has been indicted on federal tax-related offenses and is set to begin trial shortly.
“Under the direction of indicted Republican Chairman George Gilmore – township officials have already joined in talks with developer Jack Morris and BASF – the current owner of the Ciba-Geigi property,” the statement said, promoting an anti-overdevelopment agenda. “Roughly the size of Hoboken, the site has a development potential of over 6000 units.”
““I’m running for mayor to put a stop to over-development and to stabilize taxes,” said Rodrick. “I will not approve the development of Ciba-Geigi and I have a plan to cut $3 Million from our budget in my first 3 months as mayor. I can’t do it alone, so I’ve assemble a slate of true conservatives that will support my agenda.”
New Jersey’s primary elections will be held June 4.