U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) condemned a race-baiting mailer sent to Edison’s Gujarati residents Wednesday, adding that the mail piece should “absolutely” be subject to a criminal investigation.
“That mailer is used for the purposes of seeking to create fear and division, and it is the lowest form of political campaigning,” he said, adding he considered the letter racist. “It should be condemned. It’s outrageous, and there’s no place for that in our state, whether it be in Edison or any place else.”
The mailer, paid for by former Republican Woodcliff Lake Councilman and Mahesh Bhagia supporter Corrado Belgiovine, touted a prominent Pakistani community leader’s endorsement of Councilman Sam Joshi’s mayoral bid.
Bhagia, the Edison Democratic municipal chairman, is challenging Joshi for the mayorship off-the-line. Menendez endorsed the councilman’s bid in April.
The anonymously sent mail piece appears to be an attempt to leverage lingering resent over the Partition of India, the 1947 split that divided colonial India into modern India and Pakistan.
The division saw widespread violence along religious lines. Estimates say as many as 2 million died, and between 10 and 20 million more were displaced.
Citing department policy that bars comment on active investigations, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Tuesday declined to say whether the new mailer had been rolled into an existing probe into a racist mailer Edison voters received in 2017.
That flyer promised to “Make Edison Great Again” and warned voters the “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”
Grewal has empaneled a grand jury to weigh charges over that mailer, which a U.S. Postal Service inspector alleged Bhagia, Councilman Ajay Patil, Wilentz law firm partner Satish Poondi, Jerry Shi — one of the School Board candidates targeted by the mailer — and four others were responsible for sending the mail piece.
Shi is now president of the Edison School Board. Patil was recorded saying Bhagia and Poondi masterminded the 2017 mailer.
Middlesex County Democrats awarded Joshi the line after growing increasingly uncomfortable with Bhagia’s alleged role in drafting the flyer. The Edison Democratic Municipal Committee endorsed Bhagia, who is now running a slate of candidates for State Senate, Assembly and county offices in a bid to overcome his party-backed opponents.