Both Geri Ambrosio and Daniel Rodrick want to beat Toms River Mayor Mo Hill in this June’s Republican primary and become the next mayor of New Jersey’s eighth-largest municipality. But first, they’ll need to resolve a legal dispute over the slogan Rodrick will use on the primary ballot.
Rodrick, a councilman from the township’s 2nd ward, filed for mayor with three at-large council candidates on the “Save Toms River” ballot slogan. According to a lawsuit filed by Ambrosio and her “Toms River First Republican” team, however, that’s a slogan that her staffer already has ownership over.
On March 27 of this year, Ambrosio campaign manager Michael Byrne filed reservations with the state Treasury Department on two business names: “Toms River First Republicans” and “Save Toms River.” Rodrick’s usage of the latter slogan, the lawsuit alleges, is an unlawful violation of Byrne’s exclusive rights to use his own business name.
The case is set to be heard tomorrow by Superior Court Judge Francis Hodgson.
Hill, who was first elected in 2019, has the Ocean GOP organizational line for a second term alongside three incumbent councilmen – and he likely benefits from any fights that may spring up between Ambrosio and Rodrick.
“While the Rodrick and Ambrosio campaigns are in court arguing over campaign slogans, Mo Hill and his team are actually doing the hard work to save Toms River schools from Governor Murphy’s state aid cuts, saving Toms River from overdevelopment by preserving open space, and preventing the Ciba-Geigy property from being developed,” said Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River), a Hill ally and Toms River’s township attorney.
This won’t be the first time Hill has faced Rodrick in a mayoral primary.
In 2019, when both men were serving on the council (Rodrick had recently switched parties after local Democrats snubbed him for municipal party chair), incumbent Mayor Thomas Kelaher chose to retire. The GOP party line to replace him went to former county prosecutor Joseph Coronato, but Hill and Rodrick both ran off-the-line; Hill beat Coronato 41%-34%, with Rodrick in third at 25%.
Ambrosio, meanwhile, is the leader of the Toms River Regular Republican Club, an organization affiliated with Ocean GOP chairman George Gilmore that was the official municipal GOP club until 2021. She is also a former Assembly candidate, unsuccessfully running in the 2021 primary against McGuckin with the support of Gilmore, who was not party chairman at the time.
At last month’s GOP convention, Ambrosio’s Regular Republican Club tried to regain its spot as the official township club, but it was foiled once again by Republicans for Toms River, a rival club affiliated with Hill. That result allowed Hill to get the GOP line for mayor, and it also gave McGuckin and Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra the votes they needed to win the GOP nod for two Assembly seats.
This story was updated at 7:39 p.m. with a correction: Rodrick represents the 2nd ward, not the 1st.