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Longtime Barrier Island Councilwoman Maruca Has Been Defeated in GOP Primary

Justin Lamb and Maria Maruca (Campaign Photos)

Justin Lamb and Maria Maruca (Campaign Photos)

Longtime incumbent Toms River councilwoman Maria Maruca has been upset by repeated challenger Justin Lamb as the Republican primary for Ward 1 of Toms River unofficial results are in.

If the results are upheld, and Lamb were to prevail in November’s general election, he would be following in the footsteps of his father, who challenged establishment candidates and successfully won a seat on Lavallette’s borough council which he continues to hold to this day.

A contested Republican primary for each of the four ward seats of Toms River and control of the local party was a close race in several of the contests, according to unofficial results which showed spreads as thin as 146 votes.

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Unofficial results from the clerk’s office, showing all districts reporting:

Ward 1 Maria Maruca, 1,023 votes √ Justin Lamb, 1,207 votes

Ward 2 Jason Crispin, 1,075 √ Dan Rodrick, 1,488  

Ward 3 √ James Quinlisk, 1,258 Grace Piscopo, 649  

Ward 4 √ David J. Ciccozzi, 890 John Loiacono, 744

Incumbent Ward 1 Councilwoman Maria Maruca,  seeking her fifth term as councilwoman, lead a slate composed of Jason Crispin for Ward 2, James J. Quinlisk for Ward 3, and David J. Ciccozzi for Ward 4 under the banner of the Regular Republican Club of Ocean County.

A second slate, lead by Councilman Dan Rodrick, ran,under a Save Toms River banner with campaign literature of “Make Toms River Great Again,” emphasized their goal was to stop “Lakewood-style development,” reduce spending and fight corruption.

The slate was John Loiacono for Ward 4, Grace Piscopo for Ward 3, Justin Lamb for Ward 1. Lamb is a police sergeant and local attorney, as well as a volunteer fireman and EMT, who previously ran for Maruca’s seat in the ward races for Ward 1, and area of Toms River that includes the barrier island neighborhoods, East Dover, Windsor Park and eastern Silverton.

According to the unofficial results, Lamb surpassed Maruca’s votes by 184. Dan Rodrick, for Ward 2, had his first ward seat primary as a Republican, as he was elected to the seat in 2017 as a Democrat. Shortly after the election, he switched parties, emphasized his conservative views, and ran last year for the mayors seat in that race’s Republican primary.

His campaign for the Ward 2 seat is focused on his voting record as a Republican Councilman, voting against the municipal budget, citing its tax increase. Quinlisk, Ward 3, has served as a Toms River Fire Commissioner and volunteer firefighter and is currently employed in sales. Ciccozzi, Ward 4, has served on the Toms River Planning Board, and is self-employed in the property management field.

A majority of the candidates were newcomers to the ballot, with the exceptions being the incumbent council members Maruca and Rodrick; Lamb, who had sought the ward 1 seat previously in the last primary; and Quinlisk, as the fire commissioners are elected seats.

The Republican primary race for all four council seats was a hot and bitter one that played out in campaign mailers and also fractured local control of the Republican party. Though there is no mayoral race this November, much of the Rodrick slate messaging emphasized a “Say No to Mo” slogan, for example — a criticism of Republican Mayor Mo Hill who himself split from the county republicans in his bid for mayor in 2019 against county-party endorsed candidate Joseph Coronato, and third mayoral candidate Rodrick.

Toms River Council was all-Republican for more than a decade but is currently comprised of two Democrats and five Republicans: Councilpersons Terrance Turnbach and Laurie Huryk and former running mate Rodrick in 2017 were the first elected Democrats to the council in more than a decade.

The local democrat candidates in their uncontested primary are:

Michele Williams for Ward 1,

Jeff Horn for Ward 2,

Karin Sage for Ward 3 and

Turnbach for Ward 4.

Primary day saw instances where an early evening thunderstorm left the polling place at the Toms River Senior Center without power, although the voting machines have their own battery power and voting services continued uninterrupted.

Earlier in the day Toms River Police had to clear road crews from Garfield Avenue, who had closed a portion of the road leading to the polling place for repaving work. The Senior Center is the polling location for Ward 1 districts 7, 38 and 41.

Election Day results are unofficial, said County Clerk Scot Colabella, with state law allowing for vote by mail ballots with postmarks no later than June 8 to still be counted. Additionally, there’s still provisional ballots to certify as well. Tonight’s numbers represent mail-in and polling booth ballots processed so far – provisional ballots are certified next week and mail-in ballots meeting the 8 p.m. deadline will still be counted as they arrive by mail.

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