Three South Asian American lawmakers back Joshi in fight against fellow Indian American Mahesh Bhagia.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has endorsed Sam Joshi for the Democratic nomination for mayor of the fifth largest municipality in the state against fellow Indian American Mahesh Bhagia.
Joshi or Bhagia, if they win, would be the first Indian American mayor of Edison, with a 43% population of Asian descent, 24% of it Indian American, according to the last US Census.
A third Indian American candidate, Sapana Shah, dropped out of the race recently.
Murphy’s endorsement of councilman Joshi, 31, follows a decision by Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe to award the organization line to Joshi against Bhagia in the June primary election, according to local media reports.
READ: Indian American Samip ‘Sam’ Joshi runs for Edison Township Council (October 31, 2017)
All three South Asian Americans in the New Jersey legislature – Senate Majority Conference Leader Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Raj Mukherji (Jersey City) and Assemblyman Sterley Stanley (D-East Brunswick) — have also endorsed Joshi, New Jersey globe reported.
“As three legislators of South Asian descent, we are proud to wholeheartedly endorse Sam Joshi to be the next mayor of Edison Township.” the three lawmakers were quoted as saying.
“We know Sam to be a champion of his constituents, an ethical elected official and someone who is interested in bringing communities together, rather than tearing them apart.”
Gopal and Mukerji pledged to help the Middlesex Democratic ticket prevail in the June 8 primary contest.
“We will be working tirelessly to ensure that Senator Pat Diegnan, Assemblymembers Rob Karabinchak and Sterley Stanley, Surrogate Claribel Cortes and County Commissioners Director Ron Rios, Shanti Narra and Chanelle Scott McCullum win this June’s primary, and that Sam Joshi is elected as Edison’s next mayor this November,” they were quoted as saying.
Bhagia, the beleaguered Edison Democratic Municipal Chairman, has been accused of masterminding a racist flyer in the final days of the 2017 campaign that Murphy has referred to as “offensive,” New Jersey globe said.
“I’m proud to endorse Sam Joshi for Mayor of Edison. Sam has the experience, passion, and vision needed to unite Edison and continue its role as one of New Jersey’s most thriving and diverse communities,” Murphy was quoted as saying.
“As mayor, Sam will create a new township master plan and prioritize smart investments, such as municipal broadband.”
McCabe cited Bhagia’s alleged connection to the scandal as justification to deny the line to Bhagia, and called Joshi “an effective and ethical elected official.”
“In 2017, a despicable flyer was sent to Edison voters that attacked members of the East and South Asian communities, which appears to have been calculated to use racism to increase voter turnout by sowing division in our community,” McCabe was quoted as saying.
“A subsequent federal investigation has identified up to eight people allegedly involved in creating and disseminating this mailing, many (if not all) of whom are closely affiliated with Mr. Bhagia.”
McCabe also cited reports that Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has launched a state investigation into the scandal.
Grewal has empaneled a grand jury to probe the mailer, which recently issued subpoenas seeking document related to the Edison council’s own investigation, the Globe said.
The anonymous mailer promising to “Make Edison Great Again” alleged “Chinese and Indians are taking over our Town!”
“Chinese School! Indian School! Cricket Fields,” the flyer said. “Enough is Enough.”