TOMS RIVER-Toms River Councilman Maurice Hill said at a Toms River Republican Club meeting which he was invited to speak that this year’s mayoral election in Toms River, “Is going to be an ugly campaign.”
Hill, who is not a member of the Toms River Republican Club after resigning earlier this year, going as far as suing his former club for campaign funds said of his opponents, “They smell blood in the water.”
At the meeting, Hill said he will not allow his campaign to become victim to religious differences.
“The Democrats are the party of division, they are going to try to divide us and they’re going to try to play one religious group against another,” Hill said.
Hill also took a shot at his opponent, Jonathan Petro after Petro sent an op-ed letter to the Asbury Park Press criticizing Hill’s financial and political relationship with Scott Gartner, an Orthodox Jewish community leader who threatened a war chest of $500,000 to sue the township if it did not change the existing 10 acre requirement to build houses of worship within the community.
In that letter, published this week in the newspaper, Petro said, “Toms River residents should be concerned with the unusually cozy relationship between Councilman Maurice Hill and Scott Gartner – a man who has threatened to sue the town to force changes to zoning laws that sensibly restrict the construction of houses of worship.”
Petro criticized Hill’s campaign donation from Gartner and a series of meetings that were made public between Hill and Gartner at Gartner’s spacious North Dover estate.
“Hill is a member of the Toms River Land Use Committee, clearly should not be accepting campaign donations or meeting privately with someone who is lobbying for zoning changes,” Petro said. “This speaks volumes about Hill’s judgment and priorities.”
Hill responded to Petro’s criticism.
“Our opponents went negative early,” Hill said. “When you don’t have a campaign message…you go negative.”
“Toms River deserves better from a sitting councilman,” Petro said. “If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will uphold Toms River’s 10-acre zoning rules for religious buildings which have been in place since 2009.”
Petro added, “I will not cave into special interest groups.”
Hill has yet to rejoin the Toms River Republican Club. Sources within his campaign said Hill does not want to be seen publicly as returning back to the “establishment” party, although he has been solicited funds from the establishment Republicans in both Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Ocean County Chairman Frank Holman said at the meeting, “What kind of chairman would I be if I lost Toms River, the most Republican town in the most Republican County in New Jersey.”