Four-term Toms River councilman Maurice (Mo) Hill has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for mayor of Toms River, setting up a three-way primary fight in New Jersey’s 8th largest municipality.
“I have a strong record of honesty, integrity and proven leadership and dedicated service to my community and country, said Hill, a retired Rear Admiral who served 35 years in the U.S. Navy.
Former Ocean County prosecutor Joseph Coronato has the backing of the local party organization and George Gilmore, the GOP county chairman. With Gilmore in the room, Coronato won the endorsement by a 10-9 vote against Hill.
“The Republican Party in Toms River has frozen my campaign funds forcing me to run a bare bones grass roots campaign,” said Hill. “I offer myself as a candidate who has the honesty, integrity and the leadership skills to lead Toms River. I feel we need an alternative to Mr. Gilmore’s handpicked candidate, Mr. Coronato, who has an impending civil law suit for wrongful termination. We deserve better.”
Gilmore traditionally requires candidates to file join campaign accounts.
The Hill warchest, held jointly with retiring mayor Thomas Kelaher and retiring councilmen George Wittmann and Brian Kubiel – has $103,330 cash-on-hand, according to a January 2019 report filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Hill will not have access to those funds as he mounts a primary campaign.
Councilman Dan Rodrick, who won a council seat as a Democrat and switched parties last year, has also said he will enter the GOP mayoral race.
The race could hinge on the outcome of Gilmore’s federal tax evasion trial, with a verdict expected before the June primary.
Hill says that over-development will be the major issue in the race for mayor.
“As a member of the Council’s Land Use Committee I have been an outspoken advocate for preserving open space,” said Hill. “Over the last two years the Council has preserved over 60 acres for open space in the northern section of Toms River and preserved the last horse farm in Town on Cox Cro Road.”
He also pointed to a revised master plan in 2017 that eliminated residential development on part of the Route 9 corridor and says the township purchased the Red Carpet Inn to start the Downtown Redevelopment area.
Hill says the zone is also a possible site for a new Veterans Administration medical clinic and a new U.S. Post Office.
“Mr. Coronato has been one of the leading land use attorneys in Toms River,” Hill alleged. “He was the attorney who received the initial planning board approval for the project now known as Riverwood Chase and Cox Cro Crossing. He also was the attorney of record when a 15 acre parcel off North Bay Ave was approved for a clustered development of 15 homes on half acre lots when the zoning called for acre lots.”
Ocean County recently purchased the property for $2M to preserve the open space, according to Hill.
Democrats have picked Jonanthan Petro, the managing partner at a large Toms River law firm and chairman of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce, as their candidate.Toms River Republican Club Mo Hill resignation