Facing multiple serious opponents in next month’s Republican primary, Toms River Mayor Mo Hill issued a press release today with an unusual purpose: highlighting an endorsement he didn’t receive.
The Toms River Jewish Community Council (TRJCC), an Orthodox Jewish community group, is backing Geri Ambrosio for mayor, which will likely give Ambrosio a boost in Toms River’s growing Orthodox Jewish population. But Orthodox Jews are only a small percentage of the township’s 95,000 residents, and Hill evidently thinks the TRJCC’s endorsement will be more of a drawback among the wider electorate.
In today’s release, Hill “congratulates Ambrosio on receiving the group’s endorsement and pledges to make his case for reelection directly to all potential voters in the primary, regardless of any special interest endorsements.”
While Ocean County’s Orthodox Jewish community is rooted in Lakewood, in recent years it has also begun expanding into neighboring towns, among them Toms River. New Orthodox Jewish residents have often been greeted with hostility, causing redevelopment and zoning laws to become key political issues in Toms River.
According to Hill, the TRJCC has asserted an aggressive presence in the town, pushing for unacceptable zoning changes and threatening the jobs of Toms River municipal employees.
“As we got closer to the election the demands of certain TRJCC leaders have gotten increasingly aggressive and unreasonable,” Hill said. “I don’t know what Ms. Ambrosio and her allies have promised to get the TRJCC endorsement. I do know what I will not do to get it.”
The TRJCC’s involvement is just one angle in a complex mayoral primary. Hill is running on the Ocean GOP organizational line, but Ambrosio is a longtime ally of county GOP chairman George Gilmore; two other candidates, Councilman Daniel Rodrick and Robert Bianchini, are also running.