When Republican Larry Wallace and running mate Vincent Nestore broke the Democratic stranglehold on the Gloucester County freeholder board in their 2010 election win, Wallace had to figure he'd be on one side of more than a few heated arguments.
But waking up in the early hours of the morning Thursday , with shards of metal scattered about the edge of his property in the aftermath of a bottle bomb wasn't something he envisioned.
While he wouldn't lay the blame directly at the feet of his political opponents, a furious Wallace decried the divisiveness in politics driven by "fanatics on both sides," which he said could have precipitated the bomb.
“The political discourse in the entire country is just completely out of control,” Wallace said. “We should be allowed to agree to disagree about issues...without having to worry about our home or our family would be attacked over our disagreements.”
The bomb probably would've been powerful enough to take off someone's arm, Wallace said, given how things looked afterward, and though he said he has no proof yet, he doesn't believe it was a random act.
“If it was just a prank, it went way too far,” he said.
Though he acknowledged it was possible the bomb may not have been a political statement, Wallace said the makeup of his neighborhood off Oldmans Creek Road makes it less likely it was purely a prank.
At the same time, Wallace hasn't been the target of any recent threats, according to Jeff Morris, executive director of the Gloucester County Republican Party.
"There's been nothing to make him think anything like this might happen," Morris said. "I'm hoping it was just some local prank and not something targeted specifically at Larry."
No suspects have been named in the incident, which is currently under investigation by the county prosecutor's office and Woolwich police. Pieces of the mailbox were taken for examination by Det. Ron Koller of the prosecutor's office, who is part of the Camden County regional bomb squad.
And if the bomber were trying to silence Wallace, who has been outspoken as part of the opposition on the county board, that won't happen.
“I'm certainly not going to be intimidated,” Wallace said.
Debate and discussion with his detractors, whether in the freeholder meeting room, on the phone or one-on-one is something Wallace said he's always open to.
“I'd be more than happy to that—and I have done it,” he said. “I really wish people would understand that in this country you're allowed to disagree with someone and you don't have to resort to violence to get your point across.”
Still, Wallace called the incident disconcerting, and said his wife and kids won't go anywhere near the mail, out of concern for a copycat bomber or another attack.
“When I got into politics, I didn't think I'd have to hire someone to open my mailbox or start my car in the morning,” Wallace said.
Regional editor Tim Zatzariny Jr. contributed to this report.