The Republican primary for U.S. Senate turned nasty this morning, with former prosecutor Stuart Meissner slamming newly minted front-runner Rik Mehta for claiming a Homestead Tax Deduction on a home in Washington, D.C.
Mehta, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official, has taken a lead in the race to challenge Democrat Cory Booker after scoring victories in the Union and Somerset conventions.
Meissner released documents showing that Mehta, a Chester resident, had been claiming Washington residency.
“If Rik Mehta is so committed to New Jersey, why is he appears to still be availing himself of a tax benefit for primary residences on a house in Washington, D.C.?, “ Meissner asked in a statement. “As a former prosecutor, I am deeply troubled that he appears to have been seeking rental income from this same property. Rik Mehta is clearly more comfortable as an Obama bureaucrat than as a conservative leader New Jersey needs to defeat Cory Booker.”
In 2018, several candidates used the tax deduction issue in races against former federal appointees, including Reps. Andy Kim (D-Marlton) and Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes). The tactic failed to catch on with voters.
Mehta has called the issue an oversight.
“My wife and I spoke to the D.C. Tax Office yesterday and filed the proper paperwork to cancel the deduction. It was an oversight and we feel badly about it. As soon as it was brought to our attention, we took immediate steps to fix it and have offered to repay whatever monies we might owe,” Mehta said. “We consider the matter closed. My focus is going to remain on defeating Cory Booker, not trying to tear down other Republicans.”
Mehta blamed the attack on Meissner’s frustration with his own campaign.
“While I understand that Stuart Meissner is angry because he can’t get any traction with grassroots conservatives at the GOP County Conventions held so far, his decision to lash out at me and my wife personally over an innocent mistake isn’t going to help him,” Mehta said.
The race to find a challenger for Booker became a five-candidate field on Tuesday following the withdrawal of former Monmouth County freeholder Gary Rich.
Hunterdon County Republicans will hold a convention to award their organization line tonight. Mehta is the recommendation of their screening committee.
Hirsh Singh, Tricia Flanagan and Natalie Rivera are also seeking the nomination.
New Jersey Republicans have lost sixteen consecutive U.S. Senate races and haven’t won since 1972. Only Hawaii has gone longer.