Governor Phil Murphy’s campaign is weighing in on the latest racist flyer in the Edison mayoral race that deliberately targets Indian Americans of Gujarati origin by preying on decades of prejudice against Pakistan and Muslims.
“We strongly condemn the divisive, hate-filled campaign flyer being circulated in the Edison mayoral race,” said Mollie Binotto, Murphy’s campaign manager. “These unacceptable and cheap tactics seek to exploit racial animosity for political gain and have no place in Edison or anywhere else in New Jersey. Voters in Edison’s diverse communities will reject this behavior on June 8.”
The anonymous flyer seeks support for Democrat Sam Joshi by telling voters that he has the backing of a Sam Khan, a prominent leader in Edison’s Pakistani community.
But the person who paid for the “Dear Neighbor” mailing was Corrado Belgiovine, a former Republican councilman in Woodcliff Lake and a supporter of Joshi’s primary opponent, Mahesh Bhagia.
Belgiovine – or someone else – appears to have carefully cultivated a voter list to only include Gujarati Indians in Edison. That’s a complicated process for a Bergen County Republican who says he spent about $1,000 on the mailer.
The 2017 campaign in Edison was marked by another racist flyer that The promised to “Make Edison Great Again,” by telling voters that the “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.” It targeted school board candidates of Chinese and Indian descent, with the word “deported” stamped over their photos.
That mailer is now the subject of an investigation by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who has empaneled a grand jury to probe the matter.
Councilman Ajay Patil was captured on a tape recording fingering Bhagia and Wilentz law firm partner Satish Poondi as the masterminds behind the flyer.
Murphy has endorsed Joshi, who was awarded the Middlesex County Democratic organization line after party leaders rejected Bhagia after the attorney general launched his probe and subpoenaed records of the township’s internal investigation.