An insurgent campaign led by firebrand Toms River Councilman Dan Rodrick and a ticket of political newcomers handily swept Tuesday’s Republican primary election in the township, with its anti-overdevelopment theme leading to an immense victory over two other warring GOP factions.
Incumbent Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill, according to election returns that have not yet been certified by the county clerk’s office, received the second-lowest number of votes among the four candidates vying to represent the party for mayor. Rodrick, by far, received the most – 4,576, representing more than 47 percent of the electorate – followed by Geraldine Ambrosio, backed by the county GOP organization led by Chairman George Gilmore, with 2,756 votes. Hill, backed by another local Republican organization not aligned with Gilmore, received 2,137 votes, and Robert Bianchini, who ran solo without an accompanying ticket, received 507 votes.
Likewise, Hill’s ticket of fellow incumbents – councilmen Matthew Lotano, Kevin Geoghegan and Josh Kopp – received about an even number of votes as the rival GOP club’s ticket led by Ambrosio, consisting of R. Garry Mundy, Norvella “Pug” Lightbody and Sergio A. Fossa. Rodrick’s ticket of Thomas W. Nivison, Lynn O’Toole and Crag Coleman, received nearly double the number of votes. A graphic displaying those results appears below.
Election returns as reported are inclusive of all voting districts, however some mail-in ballots may not have been counted. The results are technically unofficial until certified by the Ocean County Clerk’s Office later this month.
Rodrick told Shorebeat after the results came in that the people of Toms River “want to keep it that way,” referring to ambitious, but controversial, downtown redevelopment plans that seek to attract more residents and businesses to the downtown area. Critics of the redevelopment effort have said adding hundreds of apartment units in high-rise buildings downtown would change the suburban character of the township.
“We love, love Toms River just the way it is and want to keep it that way,” said Rodrick. “Residents are tired of the development, the tax increases and the political patronage. Tonight we turned the page.”
Rodrick has long been critical of spending practices at town hall, including a six-figure bill for a township newsletter he has claimed to be politically-motivated, the appointment of Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin as township attorney despite Toms River employing in-house attorneys, and the hiring of Hill’s former campaign manager as the township’s public information officer without the job ever being posted publicly. Rodrick and former ally councilman Justin Lamb have both attacked the incumbent majority over the township’s controversial home inspection ordinance, which requires a resident to pay fees for inspections – and sometimes orders to make improvements to a property – before a home can be sold.
Opponents of Rodrick criticized him for missing council meetings, sometimes joining via conference call, and the fact that he was initially elected to the governing body as a Democrat before switching parties. He formed his own ticket after he broke ties with both of the well-funded GOP organizations represented by Gilmore and his traditional detractors.
Democrats, handily outnumbered in Toms River, offered a single candidate for mayor who ran unopposed. John Furey, a chiropractor in town, will represent the Democrats in the mayoral race against Rodrick after receiving 2,096 votes. His running mates, school board member Michele Williams, Rhetta Jackson-Fair and Kajal Lal, will represent the party’s council ticket.
A single challenger among the Democrats for council, local activist Paul C. Williams, received 450 votes. A graphic displaying the Democrats’ results appears below.
Rodrick’s surge in the primary election makes him the instant favorite in the general election in Toms River, where Republicans vastly outnumber Democrats on the voter roles.
“I just want to thank all of the people who made this possible, particularly my wife and children who have stuffed countless envelopes and put up 1,000 lawn signs,” he said. ” I also want to thank the voters. I’m truly humbled by the overwhelming support we have received. Finally I’d like to congratulate my running mates, Tom Nivison, Lynn O’Toole and Craig Coleman. They ran a great race.”
Overall, county-wide, voter turnout was just over 9 percent.