McGuckin withdraws from Toms River race

Gregory P. McGuckin has withdrawn from the Toms River Mayoral race.

McGuckin sent a letter of withdrawal to the County Clerk’s office early this afternoon, said Ocean County Division of Elections Supervisor Cheryl Hopkins. No replacement has been named yet, though sources say that it may be former Ocean County Prosecutor Thomas Kelaher.

McGuckin’s campaign hit major turbulence when the Asbury Park Press revealed that he owed $121,913.87 in unpaid income taxes. McGuckin said that he is dropping out because it’s in the best interest of Toms River.

“While I deeply appreciate the words of support and encouragement that I have received throughout Toms River, the fact is I have made a mistake with my personal finances,” said McGuckin in a statement. “My parents taught me, and I have tried to teach my children, that we all make mistakes. The important thing to do is correct that mistake, learn from it and move on. That is what I intend to do.”

Two other candidates are vying for the seat left open by retiring Mayor Paul Brush: Democrat Richard Strada, a former committeeman who served as mayor in 1978; and Republican Councilman Carmine Inteso, Jr., who’s running as an independent.

The mayoral race is only the second in Toms River history, which changed its form of government from a township committee that appointed a mayor to the more common mayor/council setup in 2003.

In his statement, McGuckin complained about his opponents’ campaign tactics, saying he was followed by videographer seeking footage for campaign commercials while he was attending memorial ceremonies for victims of the September 11th terror attacks. He said that, as long as he remained in the race, he felt that important issues would not be addressed.

“While at first I was angry, that anger soon turned to the realization that because of my personal mistake, the Toms River Democrats will not run a campaign of issues that affect our community, but rather a campaign of personal attacks leveled against me.”

Strada spokesman Tom Rodgers said that McGuckin should step down from his position on the council as well.

“Obviously Mr. McGuckin realized that his failure to pay his income taxes would prohibit him to continue in the race,” said Rodgers. “Following the same logic, hopefully Mr. McGuckin will resign his council seat immediately to allow the town to proceed with its business and not be distracted by these ethical lapses.”

McGuckin said that he intends to remain on the on the council, where he serves as president.

Inteso, McGuckin’s other opponent, could not immediately be reached for comment.

McGuckin withdraws from Toms River race