TOMS RIVER – Councilman Daniel Rodrick staged an upset, winning the primary over Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill, meaning that Rodrick will be leading the Republican ticket in November.
The primary is when the voters of each party decide who they want to run in November’s general election. This was a very congested field, with four people running for mayor, not to mention the nine council candidates.
The election will be for mayor and three at-large council candidates (which means they can live anywhere in town). If chosen, they will serve for four years.
Rodrick said he had been a Republican early in his career. He ran as a Democrat and won a spot on the council. He quickly switched to the Republicans and won his re-election. Then, he bested Hill during the June 6 primary. Rodrick won 4,567 votes. Hill received 2,137 votes. The other two Republicans in the mix were Geri Ambrosio, who received 2,756 votes and Robert Bianchini, who received 507 votes.
These numbers are unofficial because the county still has to verify them. That takes a few weeks.
“The people of Toms River have spoken,” Rodrick said in a statement after the results came in. “We love Toms River just the way it is and want to keep it that way. Residents are tired of the development, the tax increases, and the political patronage.
“Tonight we turned the page. 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. I also want to thank the voters. I’m truly humbled by the overwhelming support we have received,” he said. “Finally I’d like to congratulate my running mates Tom Nivison, Lynn O’Toole and Craig Coleman. They ran a great race.”
Mayor Hill said he had called Rodrick on election night to congratulate him and tell him that he hoped he’ll have a smooth transition in December, assuming he wins.
“Dan ran a very aggressive campaign,” Hill said. “He’s a very good politician.”
The race was nasty at times, with a lot of mailers, robocalls and social media posts firing off in all directions.
“His whole slate swamped everybody,” he said. “He surprised us.”
Hill, in a surprisingly upbeat mood considering the loss, said it only hurt when there were lies being said about him. These were the times he punched back. But otherwise, he tried to run an above-board campaign, much like his tenure in office.
“I never compromised my principles or my integrity,” he said.
“I’m proud to have served the last 20 years,” he said of his one term as mayor and the terms on council. During this time, he pointed to the open space that was preserved, and the ability of his team and administration to hold the line on the municipal portion of taxes in the face of inflation.
One of the things he loved was being able to solve the problems that residents brought to him. “That was the fun of the job.”
He said he’s played enough sports to know that you win some and you lose some.
“It’s been a good run,” he said. “I have the satisfaction that I did a good job for the people of Toms River.”
Hill had the Regular Republican Organization of Ocean County party line. He was joined by his slate of sitting councilmen Matthew Lotano (2,592 votes), a principal in the Lotano Development Corporation; Josh Kopp (2,483 votes), a veteran and director of Kopp Electric Company; and Kevin Geoghegan (2,567 votes), a retired Toms River Police Officer and member of EMS and fire departments.
Rodrick, a teacher, ran under the slogan “Save Toms River.” His running mates are Tom Nivison (4,090 votes), owner of Silverton Farms; Lynn O’Toole (4,106 votes), president of adult community Holiday City Silverton Phase II; and longtime educator Craig Coleman (4,035 votes), former principal of Ocean County Vocational-Technical School.
Geri Ambrosio ran the team Toms River First Republicans. She is the former president of the Toms River Regular Republican Club, and she works in the Berkeley Township Tax Assessor’s Office. Ambrosio’s running mates were former Assistant Township Attorney R. Garry Mundy (2,789 votes); Norvella “Pug” Lightbody (2,899 votes), widow of former Mayor Roden S. Lightbody and secretary on the township Parking Authority’s Board of Commissioners; and Sergio Fossa (2,785 votes), a staff pastor and elder at Grace Bible Church in Wall.
Robert Bianchini is an engineer and director of capital projects and public facilities for Asbury Park’s Public Works Department. He ran for mayor with no council running mates. His slogan was ” Responsibility and Accountability.”
The Democrat side of the coin had far fewer candidates. The official party line won; it had one challenger.
The Regular Democratic Organization of Ocean County is running John Furey for mayor (2,096 votes), with Michelle Williams (1,913 votes), Kajal Lal (1,803 votes) and Rhetta Jackson-Fair (1,803 votes) for council. Paul C. Williams (450 votes) also ran for council under the slogan “Be The Change You Wanna See.”