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Democratic State Senate candidate Rupande Mehta.

Two Mehtas from Morris seek Senate seats

By Nikita Biryukov, July 29 2020 10:19 am

There are two Mehtas running for Senate in Morris County.

Rupande Mehta, a Democrat, is seeking to oust State Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Boonton) in the year’s lone State Senate race, while Republican Rik Mehta is mounting a bid for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-Newark) seat.

Neither candidate is overly concerned that voters in the 25th legislative district will be confused by their shared surname.

“Mehta, among the Indian American community, is a very common name almost akin to being ‘Smiths.’ There’s a lot of Indian Americans in New Jersey, and I think people in my district are smart enough to know the difference,” the Republican Senate candidate said. “I think people will know Mehta’s on the top of the ticket with Bucco, and most people will vote the line based on values.”

The Democratic Mehta was similarly unconcerned, pointing to her 2018 bid for Morris County Freeholder that she says introduced her to the district’s voters.

“I did run for a countywide office in Morris County two years ago, so my first and last name are pretty well known, and folks know me in the district,” she said. “I have a decent amount of name [recognition].”

The two candidates may be right to feel confident in voters’ ability to tell them apart, said Micah Rasmussen, director of Rider University’s Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics.

As long as voters are familiar with the candidates, Rasmussen said, they shouldn’t have much trouble telling the two apart.

“Where it could get confusing, if this is the only Mehta that you know or this is the first time you’ve heard that name, then you might be confused,” he said. “But if you’ve heard the name before and you distinguish between which Mehta it is, then it shouldn’t be any different than having two Smiths on the ballot.”

Both candidates said they had given little thought to whether they would include their full names on lawn signs and other campaign materials, though both said regarded the possibility favorably.

“If there’s space on the sign to include my full name, by all means I will include my full name,” Rupande Mehta said. “And that’s nothing to do with the other situation but just me putting my full name. That’s my name.”

Rasmussen said that’d be wise.

“I think that that probably is a good idea to avoid confusion,” he said.

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