The field of Toms River council candidates expanded to ten yesterday when mayoral candidate Maurice (Mo) Hill was joined by three running mates.
Hill, a four-term councilman running without the support of the local Republican organization, had initially decided not to run a slate of council candidates, but changed his mind on Monday.
He will run with homebuilder Matt Lotano, U.S. Army veteran and electrical contractor Josh Kopp, and former Ward 2 councilman Kevin Geohegan.
“I warned them that it would be difficult running against the Gilmore Machine but they said they were all onboard,” said Hill, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral who came within one vote of winning the endorsement of the GOP screening committee. “Many of the people and businesses who have supported my campaign in the past are reluctant to contribute to me for fear of retaliation from Mr. Gilmore. While I don’t mind fighting the machine, I will not do it with one hand tied behind my back. Therefore, I can no longer support the club’s candidates for Council-at-Large.”
Gilmore, the longtime Ocean County Republican chairman, is facing federal tax evasion charges. His trial began yesterday.
“With Matt, Josh and Kevin we will be able to more effectively get out our message of investing in Toms River’s future,” said Hill. “The Toms River We The People ticket will continue to pursue opportunities to purchase open space and reduce residential overdevelopment, focus on the Downtown and Caudina redevelopment areas which will provide more jobs and a vibrant Downtown Toms River and continue to vigorously support our schools as they battle Trenton to restore state aid to our district and preserve our children and grandchildren’s futures.
Hill and incumbents George Wittman and Brian Kubiel are not seeking re-election to the council.
The local GOP organization has endorsed labor leader John Meehan, school board member Ginny Rhine and Christian Momm, a pharmaceutical sales representative who coaches community sports programs. They will run on a line with mayoral candidate Joseph Coronato, a former Ocean County prosecutor.
Coronato faces Hill and Daniel Rodrick, who was elected to the council in 2017 as a Democrat and switched parties last year. Rodrick unseated Geohegan.
Rodrick has fielded a full ticket: Ken Londregin, a vice principal in Old Bridge school system; George Lobman, the director of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association; and Justin Lamb, an attorney who put himself through law school while working midnight shifts as a Lavallette police officer.
Heather Barone, a court-appointed special advocate, is also seeking the Republican nomination for council, according to a report by Jersey Shore Online.
Meehan, an area manager for JCP&L, spent 22 years with the Steamfitters Union Local 475 before joining Gov. Chris Christie’s staff as outreach coordinator for the building trades unions.
Rhine was the top vote-getter when she ran for the Toms River Board of Education.
Democrats are running Jonathan Petro, an attorney and chairman of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce.
Seeking council seats on the Democratic ticket are: Michele Williams, a school board member and retired elementary school principal; Karin Sage, a partner at the Wilentz law firm; and Drew Boyle, a public school teacher.