GOP could pull embattled mayoral candidates in Toms River, Hamilton

Five years later, Republicans could be the beneficiary of "Bob's Law" — a New Jersey Supreme Court decision to allow Democrats to replace Robert Torricelli on the ballot with Frank Lautenberg in the '02 U.S. Senate race. In two of the state's larger towns, where Republicans could win mayoral seats they had held until recent years, their potential success could be impeded by flawed candidates. A change of candidates — it's administratively feasible to do that for at least another month — could change the races entirely.

In Toms River, population 89,706, the Internal Revenue Service has over $120,000 in federal tax lients against Council President Greg McGuckin, the Republican candidate for Mayor. And in Hamilton Township, population 87,109, John Bencivengo, the GOP mayoral candidate, faces allegations that he sought to profit over an Anthrax scare at the Hamilton Post Office after 9/11.

According to a Trenton Times report, Bencivengo owned a company that advertised "Skin Guard product as the 'first line of defense' against anthrax and urged postal workers to use the cream every day before sorting mail." There are allegations that "federal agencies that monitor drugs have no record of Skin Guard and there is no evidence that the product was effective at blocking cutaneous anthrax."

On Thursday, the former President of the National Association of Letter Carriers said that Bencivengo lied to people to sell a product based on fear, according to a Trenton Times report.

The current Mayor of Toms River is Paul Brush, a former Ocean County Freeholder who won a three-way race as an Independent in 2003 and has since returned to the Democratic Party. He is not seeking re-election. McGuckin, who easily won a contested primary with the financial support of Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore and the Republican State Committee, faces Democrat Richard Strada, a former Mayor, and Carmine Inteso, a Republican Councilman who is running as an Independent.

Bencivengo, the former Republican Municipal Chairman, is challenging Glen Gilmore, a Democrat who was elected Mayor in 1999 (after 24-year GOP incumbent Jack Rafferty stepped down amidst a local scandal) and was narrowly re-elected in 2003 against ex-Councilman Jack Lacy.

Toms River is heavily Republican. George W. Bush won it River by 10,000 votes in 2004, gubernatorial candidate Douglas Forrester by 5,000 in 2005, and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Kean, Jr. by 6,000 in 2006. Republicans hold all seven Council seats, and three popular GOP legislators head the ticket this year.

Hamilton is much more competitive: John Kerry won it by about 200 votes in 2004, Forrester by 300 in 2005, and Bob Menendez by 100 last year. Republicans have a majority on the Township Council, and Assemblyman Bill Baroni, who wins his hometown by huge pluralities, heads the ticket in November.

Toms River is the seventh largest municipality in New Jersey and Hamilton is the eighth largest. Democrats currenly hold mayorships in the each top ten population towns, and in seventeen of the largest twenty. GOP could pull embattled mayoral candidates in Toms River, Hamilton