JACKSON — A Facebook post with a picture of a noose and a message that Mayor Mike Reina needs "a new necklace" doesn't scare him and won't force him out of politics, he said.

"It's not going to change my direction. I do what I do. I've been here 14 years as mayor. I understand that some of the things I'm gonna do is not going to resonate and make everyone happy," the mayor told New Jersey 101.5. "But when you do the right thing as I feel I have honorably I don't think I should be scared out. When the time comes that I say I'm done it should be on my own accord."

What does bother the mayor is the threat against his 40-year-old daughter as she was putting up a campaign sign Tuesday.

"A grown man in a black pick-up truck slowed down beside her, spit at her, and screamed the C-word at her before speeding off. She came inside visibly shaken,” Reina said.

Reina is a Republican, whose party in the township is in the midst of internecine warfare. Then there's the municipality's growing pains as it's recently faced lawsuits from developers and state and federal prosecutors accusing officials of animus against the township's Orthodox Jewish population.

The mayor said that in his 16 years in politics he's never experienced such a toxic atmosphere at a local level fueled in part by the Internet. He finds some of it scary.

"I guess some people feel empowered behind a keyboard. They feel that that's their way of lashing out. And it's sad because while Jackson has always been fun-time silly season during the political campaigns, I've never seen the animus that I'm seeing now. Blunt accusations, people pointing fingers, turning around and tell you you're the cause of overdevelopment. I think it's a lash out just in any way you can."

Screenshot of Facebook post with a noose and comments directed at Jackson Mayor Mike Reina
Screenshot of Facebook post with a noose and comments directed at Jackson Mayor Mike Reina (Moving Jackson Forward)

Not scared out of public life

For all the hostility and toxicity it's not enough to make Reina leave politics altogether. Disagreement is part of politics and Reina said he is no fan of President Joe Biden or Gov. Phil Murphy but he keeps it civil.

"I don't put pictures of noose, which is a symbol of hate that spans centuries. There's a line and that line is sacred. You never go over that line. And in a way, I feel bad for those responsible for orchestrating it because they have nothing left but that. I mean, that's sad. That truly is sad. But we'll move on. You know, we'll press on," Reina said.

For his part, Reina pledged to keep the remained of his campaign focused on candidates and the issues without any personal attacks. He asked opponent Martin Flemming III, who is the Township Council president, to do the same.

Jackson police were given a picture of the post and are considering charges against the individual who posted it.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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