Toms River Committeeman Maurice “Mo” Hill has decided not to seek the 3rd District Republican congressional nomination and has thrown his support behind former Philadelphia Eagles tackle Jon Runyan, a sign that the district’s two powerful Republican organizations will unite behind the recently retired millionaire football player to take on freshman U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-Cherry Hill).
“This was an extremely difficult decision to make,” Hill said in a written statement. “But this is a district that traditionally supports Republicans and I believe that Jon Runyan will have the necessary resources to defeat Congressman Adler and take this seat back.”
Hill said that he felt confident he could beat Adler, but deferred to Runyan’s abiliy to self-fund. Moreover, he acknowledged that an expensive primary against Runyan would diminish the GOP candidate’s chances against Adler, who has about $1.4 million in the bank.
“Jon has the financial ability to match Adler’s fundraising abilities, as well as considerable name recognition from his professional football career,” he said. “It is vital that our Party is united in the effort to win this election and I feel that with the support of all three county-party organizations behind him, Jon Runyan will be able to raise the funds necessary and invest the time it will take to win in November.”
The Ocean County Republican screening committee met with several potential candidates over the weekend at a Toms River motel, including Hill and Runyan. Although they have not yet released their recommendation, Hill’s withdrawal all but ensures that the screening committee will suggest Runyan to county committee members, who will likely ratify the pick at a convention next month.
In 2008, Burlington County’s Chris Myers and Ocean County’s Jack Kelly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a nasty GOP primary that included accusations of patronage jobs and references to bloated pigs. After winning the contest, Myers had to limp into the general election with a significantly diminished war chest against a well-funded Adler, who went on to win the seat previously held by retired U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-Mount Holly).
Adler became the first Democrat to hold the traditionally Republica seat since the 1880s.
Since losing to Adler, the Republican organizations of Ocean and Burlington Counties have stressed that they hope to avoid a primary that pits the two major organizations against each other
Camden County has one town, Cherry Hill, in the district, and its Republican county committee is likely to accept the candidate agreed upon by the district’s two major Republican organizations.
Runyan is expected to face at least one opponent in the primary: former Tabernacle Township Committeeman Justin Murphy, an anti-machine candiate who had a surprisingly strong third place finish in the 2008 primary. Joe Rullo, a former Democratic Ocean County freeholder candidate who turned Republican and worked on Jack Kelly’s congressional campaign last year, has also said that he will run on or off the party line.