TOMS RIVER-They say there’s no honor among thieves. The same can be said of politicians. This weekend, the campaign for Maurice B. “Mo” Hill for Mayor of Toms River broke an agreed upon truce with his opponent, former Democrat Daniel Rodrick. Hill’s campaign resurfaced a 2017 video of Rodrick telling locker room jokes with a constituent while canvassing Toms River in that election where Rodrick was running as a Democrat for township council.
This year, Rodrick and Hill are running opposition Republican candidacies for mayor. In the beginning, both camps agreed to a political cease-fire, coordinating their efforts against the candidate backed by the Toms River Republican Club, former Ocean County Prosecutor Joe Coronato. Both Rodrick and Hill double-teamed Coronato throughout the campaign, attempting to tie the former prosecutor to former GOP Chairman George Gilmore, even though all three candidates were closely affiliated and allied with Gilmore prior to the primary. Rodrick took the campaign one step further and fabricated a conspiracy theory that Gilmore and Coronato were behind a plan that sought to build an “entire city the size of Hoboken” on the Ciba-Giegy superfund site.
Township officials, including Councilman Hill all sharply disputed Rodrick’s claim. Despite multiple attempts to solicit Rodrick for further evidence of the claim, none has surfaced. Even Rodrick’s makeshift political ally Hill couldn’t back Rodrick’s claim.
The Ring video posted was published by Art Gallagher, a Monmouth County Republican political operative and blogger who is being paid by the Hill campaign to publish blog posts and mailers against Hill’s opponents, was being passed off as news through the Monmouth County political blog in which he operates.
Residents offered mixed reactions to the 2017 ring video resurfaced by Hill’s campaign days before Tuesday’s primary election, many criticizing Hill, Gallagher and even the homeowner who released the ring video for political intent.
In the video, a homeowner references a joke Rodrick made about the man killing his wife, along side Democrat operative Jon Salonis. Salonis works as a public information officer for Carteret Democrat Mayor Dan Reiman.
“You didn’t think that was a good joke?” Rodrick asked the homeowner.
“Don’t fart in public because some jackass like this man will use it against you. Glad this pig is not my neighbor,” said Toms River resident Doreen Longo.
“So much for running a “positive” campaign,” Christian LaCicero said to Gallagher. “Is that what Mo paid you $7,635.29 for? #fakenews.”
While Maurice Hill was out of town on vacation earlier this month, he dispatched Gallagher to pick up a $25,000 check from Coronato’s campaign after a judge ordered the campaign to give Hill his fair share of a previously disputed campaign account, so far, Hill’s campaign has paid Gallagher nearly 25% of those recovered funds.
Others criticized the candidate for over-politicizing a two-year-old joke and inserting social justice warrior style political correctness into the Republican primary.
“It’s a shame we now live in an age where political correctness is the main goal,” replied Chem Lisitski. “Anyone could make a mistake in an effort to reach out and make a new friend with a bad insensitive joke but I guess if you want to have a career as a politician you can’t be too funny or at least you have to be a good comedian that is politically correct.”
“The video never shows Rodrick saying anything wrong. Unless I’m missing something,” said Justin Delaney.
Some Republicans questioned Hill’s call out to Monmouth County Republicans for support in his Toms River election.
“Monmouth musings getting involved in ocean county politics….. all thanks to MO Money,” said Drew Chabot.
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In recent weeks, Monmouth Republicans have been trying to assert their influence into Ocean County Republican politics in the wake of Gilmore’s political departure. Insiders suggest Monmouth County GOP Chairman Shawn Golden is making a power play ahead of his 2020 run for Governor in which he needs to secure Ocean County support in order to get the nomination. That support might not currently be in his favor after he oversaw several years of crushing losses for his party. Under Golden’s rule, Monmouth County elections have swung to Democrats year after year.
While Hill’s call to “fake news” was called out by voters, last week, Rodrick was called out by voters for publishing and mailing a “fake news” newspaper to Republican and independent voters, claiming Hill has made a secret deal with an Orthodox rabbi and reinforcing his conspiracy theory that Coronato was building a city on a federal Superfund site.
Coronato has remained silent on the back and forth between Rodrick and Hill this week, but called out what he says is “fake news”, if not election fraud.
“Many received a fake newspaper in the mail called the Toms River Tribune,” Coronato said. “Be aware, it’s not real, I’m warning you about election fraud right here in Toms River.”
“It’s 100% fake, being paid for by Democrat Dan Rodrick, a known liar who is currently being sued for defamation in Superior Court on a fake news claim out of Brick Township,” Coronato said. “Rodrick is a liberal Democrat who endorsed Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Phil Murphy, then he switched parties to Republican. Now he’s running against Republicans because he didn’t get what he wanted here either, don’t let him get away with all of this.”
In that case, Rodrick is being represented by the firm of Gilmore & Monahan.
Coronato referred to Rodrick’s lawsuit filed by former Bernie Sanders “Tinder Girl” Robyn Gedrich who claims Rodrick slandered her in a previous incarnation of a fake news website being operated now for his Toms River campaign.
“During this campaign and in past elections, Democrat Dan has shown he will do or say anything with no regard to fact or truth,” Coronato said.