Carl Block’s in a battle again, in Ocean County.
That’s because his usually quiet town of Stafford has transformed into a political warzone, as Block, the incumbent 26-year mayor, attempts to fend off a challenge by former Police Lieutenant John McMenamin, who’s receiving considerable blended backing from the Ocean County Democratic Organization and a local renegade Republican outfit.
When he didn’t become police chief in 2005, McMenamin sued Block and the town for $8.6 million. The judge threw the bulk of the case out, and McMenamen settled for workman’s compensation and disability payments that finally added up to $177,000.
Out of the courts and into the streets, now McMenamin is challenging Block in a mano-a-mano with remnants of U.S. Rep. John Adler’s (D-Cherry Hill) field staff on the ground at his campaign’s disposal, still energized from last year’s 3rd Congressional District win.
"Taxes have tripled in this town; the dynamics of the campaign are Carl Block's record," said Mitch Seim, spokesman for the challenger.
The county Democrats have contributedmore than usualto McMenamin’s effort here in a county where State Democratic Chairman Joe Cryan laments the lack of any significant party infrastructure in a gubernatorial election year where Republicans figure they will substantially gin up their party’s base numbers.
But the Republicans still have their own primary to contend. Bob Haelig, a Steve Lonegan-backer and bitter foe of Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore, last week sent outa flyer on McMenamin’s behalf.
Block, who last year won a tough re-election campaign for another term as Ocean County Clerk, backs former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.
The convergence of forces aligned against the mayor/clerk – a longstanding Gilmore loyalist – makes this one of the most bitterly contested May 12th races of the season.
On his website, McMenamin hits Block hard, asserting that property taxes have doubled from 1998 to 2008 and bashing Block for overseeing a town operation in which the Stafford Township administrator receives a salary and benefits package of over $300,000, while retired Police Chief Larry Parker from 2000-2005 received payments of over $1.2 million, or over $300,000 per annum, before he retired and McMenamin tested unsuccessfully for his job.
McMenamin also says Block intends to run a re-election campaign costing about $300,000.
“That’s total BS,” said the mayor. “I don’t expect to go north of $100,000.”