EDISON, NEW JERSEY GEARING UP FOR IT’S FIRST SOUTH ASIAN MAYOR

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Edison Election Result Chart added, to this article on June 9, 2021. The chart shows the winners of this primary election for the Mayor of Edison. Samip Joshi (Sam) won the election with a huge margin.  The victory party was held in Miraj Banquet Hall where most of the leaders spoke. To listen to the speeches, watch the full story please visit the Facebook page of The India Observer, TIO. 

By Adam Rizvi, Edison, N.J. May 27, 2021, The India observer, TIO: – There is a real possibility of Edison, New Jersey electing its first South Asian mayor on November 2. As one of New Jersey’s biggest municipalities with a population of 100,000 residents, 48 % of which are of Asian descent and 24% of whom are Indian Americans, it is about time for this possibility to come true.

Source: Sam Khan

Governor Phil Murphy

 

In one of the hottest contested mayoral polls, the question being asked is which one of the two South Asian candidates will seal the official Democrat nomination in the June 8 primary, as a run-up to the November poll. Though the incumbent mayor Tom Lankey who has been the mayor for two terms, cannot really be written off, his own indecision of fighting as an independent or taking off from the party line in the Democratic primary, is keeping him out of the reckoning.

The two South Asian candidates in the fray, meanwhile are in for a keen fight. While Mahesh Bhagia, the Democratic Municipal Chairman and former special assistant to Mayor Lankey seemed to have a head start, since June last year, Council Vice President Samip “Sam” Joshi, seems to have closed the gap in the last two months.

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Claribel Cortes (County Surrogate) with Assemblyman  Robert Karabincha

What seemed like a clear path to victory for Bhagia, last June, took a nosedive this March, when the attorney general Gurbir Grewal was finally forced to act in a 40-month cold case around some racist flyers, involving Bhagia. These flyers were circulated during the November 2017 school board elections.

Racist Flyer, File photo of the racist Edison mailers sent out the week before the 2017 election.

In the final days of the campaign, some Edison voters received a mailer promising to “Make Edison Great Again,”  alleging that the “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.” In an audiotape acquired by the local media, Councilman Ajay Patil claims to have witnessed Satish Poondi, a partner at the Wilentz law firm, assembling those racist mailers at the home of Mahesh Bhagia, in 2017. It is unclear why Poondi would risk his well-established career to help Bhagia in such a racially charged campaign, meant probably to gain sympathy from the local Asian and Indian population, by making it look like a campaign against them by the white folks. Whatever the motivation behind the ugly campaign, it has certainly come back to bite Bhagia at a most inopportune moment.

L to R Assemblymen Sterley Stanley, Assemblymen Robert Karabinchak, Congressmen Pallone, Sam Khan, Senator Pat Diegnan, and Samip (Sam) Joshi

Supporters

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Mayor Brad Cohen

Bhagia was even removed from the Middlesex County Democratic Organization’s party line on the ballot due to the racist flyer allegations. This honor has now gone to his rival Joshi, who along with Lankey pushed for the investigations in the run-up to the mayoral poll.

Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe

After a decision by the Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe to award the organization line to Joshi against Bhagia in the June primary election, Joshi got endorsements from Governor  Phil Murphy and US Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker. All the three South Asian legislators in New Jersey, State Senator Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City), Assemblyman Sterley Stanley (D-East Brunswick) too have favored Joshi. Others who have supported him include Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-Long Branch, Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) and Andy Kim (D-Moorestown),

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Bhagia had earlier been elected chairman of the Edison Democratic Organization in July 2020 in a landslide victory with 101 votes against a candidate who only got 32 votes, despite the backing of mayor Lankey, most of the council, and a large portion of the political establishment…

New Jersey had also witnessed the election of the first Muslim South Asian woman candidate, Sadaf Jaffer, as mayor of the Montgomery Township in January 2019. She is up for re-election this year too.

Besides Mahesh Bhagia and Sam Joshi, newcomer Arthur Esposito too is in the running for the June 8 Democratic primary. The Republican candidate, Edison police officer Keith Hahn, though unopposed, seems to have little or no chance in a municipality favoring Democrats.

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In March, Lankey held a virtual news conference, pushing for an investigation into the racist flyers from the offices of the state attorney general and the Middlesex County prosecutor.

He said audio recordings indicate members of the township’s governing body and their allies knew who was responsible for the flyers and that he’s frustrated that, three years later, the incident remains unsolved as to who is responsible.

Meanwhile, Lankey himself is in trouble for a similar issue. About 150 self-proclaimed Asian American ‘community leaders with connections to Edison have signed a statement demanding that the mayor and the town council fire his special assistant, Nilesh Dasondi.

Mahesh Bhagia

According to them, Dasondi, who was appointed to the special assistant to the mayor’s post a couple of months ago too had made comments reflecting “hate” and “racism” toward Chinese Americans, when he referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” in several messages in 2020.

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Racism is a major issue of concern in the Edison mayoral race, just as it was during the 2017 school board election, with one Asian community pitted against the other, The two groups together make up half the population of Edison’s 100,000 residents.

Local Groups have begun hosting a meet and greets with their supported candidates to allow constituents time to meet those running.

The South Asian Democratic Club hosted a Meet & Greet with Column A candidates of NJ’s 18th legislative district. Column A is the official democratic line with Democratic incumbent Governor Murphy at the top of the ticket. Combined with the fact that Edison has two South Asians running in this democratic primary, this holds election holds a tremendous amount of weight. A significance that can shift how politics works in NJ for a long time. As such, the South Asian Democratic Club wished to invite elected officials both running and in office to speak on behalf of not only their ticket but specifically for Edison Mayoral Candidate Sam Joshi. Sam Joshi garnered the endorsements of individuals at nearly every level from local to county and even state level with notable individuals such as powerful #SenatorsCoryBooker, #SenatorBob Menendez,

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez,credit: Newsweek

and #AndyKim all the way up to #GovernorMurphy himself. This level of support is nearly unprecedented and highlights that Sam has developed a good working relationship with highly influential Democrats who could be great assets to Edison.

County Commissioner Charles Tomaro

Other notable endorsees of #Sam Joshi and those who came in solidarity with this group who were either in attendance or tried to attend this event include: #CongressmenPallone, NJ Assembly Speaker #Craig Coughlin, MCDO Chairmen #Kevin McCabe, #SenatorPatDiegnan, #Assemblymen RobertKarabinchak, #AssemblymenSterleyStanley, #Middlesex CountySurrogateClaribelCortes, #Director of the Board of #CountyCommissionersRonaldG.Rios, #CountyCommissionerDeputyDirectorShantiNarra,  #CountyCommissionerChanelleScottMcCullum, #CountyCommissionerCharlesTomaro, #MayorJonathanBusch, #MayorBradCohen,  #MayorDerek Armstead

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We want to thank all the elected officials who attended and those who tried to make it but couldn’t do other obligations but still supported our event. The ones listed above are just a handful of the plethora of elected officials of every level that came. While the vast majority was from Edison, we had elected officials from even other towns, legislative districts, and even states to support our cause. Our cause is to ensure South Asians, as a whole, no matter our backgrounds, all go and vote for individuals and a ticket that aims to unite us. As a result, all our speakers articulated why it is pertinent that our community should support Sam Joshi to be the next mayor of Edison and why we as South Asians should come together and vote Column A all the way. By voting for the Column A ticket, we hope to illustrate that divisive rhetoric and political tactics won’t succeed in dividing us. We have the chance to vote for a diverse ticket that could move our communities forward. We urge everyone to vote on June 8th.

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Councilman Viru Patel, addressing the gathering

Sam Khan – Political Activist, remarked“Edison is a place where we don’t need any division. Division, hatred, we don’t need that. Why don’t we live peacefully no matter where we come from? India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, so many different people here. With all the people here, no one can tell off the bat who is Pakistani and who is Indian…Your kids are growing up here in Edison schools and Rutgers; they are friends with each other, they don’t care about their different backgrounds, so why do you want this divide?

Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak said“Electing Sam and everyone on Column line A only will show the support and unity that we are going to have not just in Edison but in all of LD18 and really in NJ. We are so happy and so proud to be a part of this and being on column line A is my honor.”

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Assemblyman Sterley Stanley went on saying “let’s give a big shout-out to the diversity in this room tonight. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Black, White, Brown, we are all here together; that is what the message is all about. Being together working together doesn’t matter what your background is we are here together, and we are here together to support Sam Joshi in this effort for Column A.”

  County Commissioner Deputy Director Shanti Narra spoke in detail, quote” South Asian is not just India. It is Pakistan, it is Nepal, it is Sri Lanka, it is Bangladesh. We are all living here together. Let me tell you this will all due respect to our white brothers and sisters. People don’t know the difference between us.

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County Commissioner Deputy Director Shanti Narra

If I walk into a room with a Bangladeshi, do you think non-south Asians know the difference? They all assume we are together, and they don’t know how divided we are, and we can be, especially when someone tries to exploit those divisions. This young man (Sam Joshi) grew up here. He grew up here as an American but with Indian heritage, and he grew up with his family teaching him all the good things that you all got from your parents and your grandparents or are teaching your kids, but he grew up melting that will all the good in this country. This (Sam Joshi) is the person everyone needs to have in Edison.”

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Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin

         Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin: “What I can speak to are the things that are universal. That starts with leadership, it starts with visions, it starts with compassion, it starts with caring, its starts with a plan, and in this instance, that Sam Joshi. Sam has proven himself time and again with his time on the council. He has shown to be someone who can bring people together, someone who works tirelessly, who understands the community, who gets things done and makes things happen. Whether you’re Irish or South Asian, those are the qualities that make you a great leader, and that will make him a great mayor. That’s why we need to elect Sam Joshi.

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Committeeman Hannan Arshad,

Committeeman Hannan Arshad

this young dynamic upcoming leader went on in detail, quote“…You still have to reach across the aisle. You have to do what’s best for everyone in Edison, not just those that support you, and that’s what Sam does. He has the support of everyone here, I see people who have been here who are new and old to our community that has been supporting it day in and day out…You make these bridges, you don’t build up walls. . That’s why someone born and raised here is going to get things done because he knows how to work with everyone and every community. He’s going to have people of every faith Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist. There are over 10,000 religions, A leader doesn’t divide. They bring us together that how we move forward. So, I think he is going to the best candidate for mayor.

 

Curated By Humra Kidwai

Images Credit Arshad Choudhry A1 Videos Photos

 

Adam Rizvi

Adam Rizvi

Adam Rizvi has a unique talent for publishing to marketing to managing projects, writers & assigning the task to correspondents. Edits an e-paper & cover the news. An activist, spend time with family & friends. His adorable daughters, Alizah & Anum are his lifelines. He spends his time reading, swimming, hiking, cycling, and watching with them their favorite TV shows, & fixing the Big Old House where he lives. Studied literature & management. Volunteer for non-profits. President of a Travel Agency. Publisher. Circulated the newspapers. Acted & Assisted in directing & production of the award-winning film & TV Serial. Scripted a little. Modeled. Emceed the live shows & judged competitions. A caring sibling and was an obedient son of his late doting parents whom he misses dearly. Adam uses his various positions & experiences in building a strong relationship with all. Appreciates his articles being read, commented, liked, and shared. He can be reached at his personal email: mediaiss@gmail.com.

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