Toms River Democrats have endorsed Jonathan Z. Petro as their candidate for mayor, setting up a potentially competitive race in New Jersey’s 8th largest municipality against a sharply divided Republican Party.
The incumbent, 86-year-old Thomas Kelaher, is not seeking re-election to a fourth term.
Petro, the managing partner at a large Toms River law firm, is the chairman of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean County Library foundation.
The Toms River Republican screening committee voted 10-9 on Saturday to endorse former Ocean County prosecutor Joseph Coronato for mayor.
Councilman Maurice (Mo) Hill has asked for a full vote of the Toms River Republican Club tonight.
Dan Rodrick, who was elected as a Democrat to the council in 2017 and switched parties last year, announced this week that he would challenge Coronato in the Republican primary.
Democrats are also playing for control of the township council, where all three incumbent Republicans are not seeking re-election.
The endorsed council candidates are: Board of Education member and retired elementary school principal Michele Williams; Karin Sage, a partner at the Wilentz law firm; and Drew Boyle, a teacher in the Brick public school system.
“I’ve always been proud to call Toms River home, but I know this township has the potential to once again be a beacon for folks and families to put down their roots,” Petro said. “We can do more, not just on escalating taxes and development missteps, but on improving the quality of life and increasing community engagement. I’m running to make the improvements that haven’t been made, to develop the ideas that have stagnated on the shelf, and to make this town a better place for all of us.”