TRENTON — After being booted from the ballot back in 2011 in part by a county chairwoman who is now his Assembly opponent, Democrat Dan Toto is stepping back up to the plate in the 15th legislative district.
Toto, who was in Trenton today to file his petition signatures with the Division of Elections, will challenge incumbent Assemblypeople Reed Gusciora (D-15) and Liz Muoio (D-15) in a June Democratic primary. The newly-announced candidate successfully submitted 150 signatures toward his candidacy in LD15, which encompasses parts of Mercer and Hunterdon Counties.
It’s not the first time Toto has run in LD15, and indeed there is some strange history here. A Lawrence resident who works for the New Brunswick Housing and Redevelopment Authority as a compliance officer, Toto attempted to run for the Assembly four years ago, but his name was tossed from the ballot when Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno sided with an administrative law judge who had invalidated 17 of the 115 signatures he’d collected for his nomination. Instigating the initial suit was none other than Muoio, then (and still) chair of the Mercer County Democratic Committee, who had fought to keep the insurgent from the race by arguing he didn’t have enough signatures.
Ironically, Muoio has since moved up into the Assembly herself, replacing former Assemblywoman (and now 12th congressional district U.S. Rep.) Bonnie Watson Coleman in LD15. Now, she’ll face Toto again — albeit this time in different roles.
And Toto is looking for revenge.
“It’s long overdue that our district has representation that has proven leadership to help people in need. I believe that my platform will help solidify a place for seniors, and provide a much needed service for them. I will have a concrete plan to help fix the inner city of Trenton. And that will be able to permeate all throughout the suburbs, as there is a big drain on many of these municipalities in dealing with the problems coming out of Trenton,” Toto told PolitickerNJ today.
A former law clerk, Toto has served as a campaign coordinator for Maryland Gov. and former Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, as well as campaign finance director for disgraced Trenton Mayor Tony Mack. In 1995, he sought Republican backing to run for freeholder in Mercer County.
Speaking briefly to PolitickerNJ after filing, Toto also argued the establishment wing of the Democratic party in Mercer County has failed to follow through on promises to address the problems affecting voters. He pointed the finger at Gusciora and Muoio, saying the chairwoman’s “track record as the county’s economic development director at well over $100,000 a year has proven zero results for jobs and development.”
Muoio has worked under Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes in that role.
“Secondly, she’s still party chairwoman, and she could drop the hammer on many other people. So that’s not a sign of someone being genuine,” he said. “People know who I am, I promise to say what I do … and I think I can server the district without getting nasty with my opponents.”