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Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. (Photo: Bill Benzon.)

Bhalla declines overture from 32BJ SEIU to run for Congress

Hoboken mayor won’t pursue Sires’ open House seat

By David Wildstein, December 21 2021 11:23 am

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla told the New Jersey Globe that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 8th district, eschewing a call from one of the state’s most influential labor unions that he ought to consider succeeding retiring eight-term Rep. Albio Sires.

“We called him about exploring a possible run,” said Kevin Brown, the New Jersey State Director of 32BJ SEIU.

But Bhalla later said he wasn’t interested.

“While I’m honored and humbled to have been approached by members of the Sikh and South Asian community, along with other stakeholders to run for Congress,” Bhalla said.  “I’m happy serving the Hoboken community as mayor.”

The possible Bhalla candidacy came as Hudson County Democrats are rallying around Robert J. Menendez, a 36-year-old commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the son of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez.

But Bhalla hinted that he’s ready to support Menendez.

“I look forward to working with the Hudson County Democratic Organization and have no plans to run for Congress,” he said.

Brown cited Bhalla’s experience as a two-term city councilman who was elected mayor in 2017 and re-elected last month without opposition.

If the 47-year-old Bhalla had run and won , he would become the first Sikh American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He would have also become the first Hoboken mayor to win a congressional seat.  Mayor John J. Grogan, an immigrant from Ireland who also served as International President of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 1958.  Former Rep. Harrison Williams defeated him by a 43%-40% margin.

In that primary, Grogan carried Hudson County by a 63%-8% margin over Williams.  Grogan carried on Camden, Atlantic and Hunterdon.

The New Jersey Globe first reported Sires’ intention to retire after his current term expires and that Menendez had emerged as the leading candidate to replace him.

This story was updated at 11:34 AM. 

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