Home>Highlight>Toms River mayor, three GOP councilmen, won’t seek re-election

Thomas Kelaher was elected mayor of Toms River in 2007 after serving as Ocean County Prosecutor. (Photo: Toms River.)

Toms River mayor, three GOP councilmen, won’t seek re-election

Thomas Kelaher, 86, is stepping aside; ex-prosecutor Joseph Coronato running for mayor, along with councilmen Mo Hill and Dan Rodrick

By David Wildstein, March 16 2019 3:07 pm

Toms River mayor Thomas Kelaher, 86, will not seek re-election to a fourth term, setting up a race for an open seat in New Jersey’s 8th largest municipality.

At least four candidates appeared before the Republican screening committee today seeking party support for mayor in the June primary: councilmen Maurice “Mo” Hill and Daniel Rodrick; former councilman Kevin Geohegan; and former Ocean County prosecutor Joseph Coronoto.

Coronoto is said to be the preferred candidate of Ocean County GOP chairman George Gilmore.

None of the three Republican councilmen whose seats are up this year – Hill, Brian Kubiel and George Wittmann — are seeking re-election.

“I’m a military man,” said Hill, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral.  “I move up or I move out.”

Possible Republican council candidates include school board member Ginny Rhine and John Meehan, an area manager for JCP&L who spent 22 years with the Steamfitters Union Local 475 before joining Gov. Chris Christie’s staff as outreach coordinator for the building trades unions.

Democrats have not yet picked their candidate for mayor, but speculation centers around Jonathan Petro, an attorney and chairman of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce.

One of Petro’s law partners is former Assembly Majority Leader John Paul Doyle, who represented Toms River in the legislature for eighteen years.

Michele Williams, a school board member and retired elementary school principal, and Karin Sage, a partner at the Wilentz law firm, are among the Democrats being considered for council.

Democrats won three seats on the Toms River Township Council in 2017, when the all-Republican governing body saw their majority reduced to 4-3.  The number increased to 5-2 last July when Rodrick, who ousted Geohegan by a wide margin two years ago, switched parties.

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