Mo Hill’s narrow victory in the Republican Primary was secured with help from the township’s newest residents. According to Shore News Network, “Hill received an overwhelming majority of votes in districts with large Orthodox Jewish voter bases.” Records from the Office of the County Clerk confirm that Hill did garner over 70% of all votes cast in much of the North Dover section.
In the run up to the primary election, Hill’s opponent and fellow Republican Councilman Dan Rodrick put out a mailer titled, “Mo Hill Gets Big Endorsement.” The mailer stated that Hill was working with the land use committee to reduce the 10 acre requirement for houses of worship, and that Hill had received the endorsement of Scott Gartner – an Orthodox Jewish community leader who had threaten to sue Toms River if it didn’t reduce the requirement “to between 2 and 5 acres.”
Hill downplayed his relationship with Gartner and said Scott was just his neighbor. However, property records indicate – Hill lives several blocks away from Gartner – and recent filings with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission show Gartner gave Mo Hill thousands of dollars toward his campaign.
Those same filings show members of the Toms River Jewish Community Council were also generous with Councilman Hill. The TRJCC is group of Orthodox men who have made political endorsements in recent elections and according to news reports – Mo Hill signs were displayed prominently on the lawns of TRJCC members.
The Chabad of Toms River created a recent stir when it too began displaying Mo Hill signs for Mayor. (see pictures below) Chabad Rabbi Moshe Gourarie first made headlines in 2016 when he filed a Federal lawsuit that accused Toms River officials and the zoning board of violating the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the 14th Amendment.
The Chabad had been denied a variance to the 10 acre rule for houses of worship. In April of 2018, a Federal Judge ruled that the Gourarie could continue to hold services in his home and required the Township pay $122,500 to cover the Chabad’s attorneys’ fees.
During the 2017 Council race, the TRJCC endorsed Republican Council Candidate Lou Galipoli, but Democrat Laurie Huryk still won Ward 3 by over 80 votes. With estimates of around 700 votes or so, the question is – has the Orthodox Bloc grown large enough to steer a general election with voter turnout expected to be 3x what it was in the primary election, and can Mayoral Candidate Jonathan Petro make up the difference among independent voters and Republican dissidents.