The election of Nancy Pinkin as the Middlesex County Clerk on Tuesday sets up a January special election convention to fill her 18th district seat in the New Jersey State Assembly.
Pinkin is expected to resign from the legislature on January 1, triggering a meeting of the Democratic county committee in the seven municipalities in the district — East Brunswick, Edison, Helmetta, Highland Park, Metuchen, South Plainfield and South River – to pick an interim replacement.
The leading candidate to replace Pinkin is East Brunswick Councilman Sterley Stanley.
Edison Councilman Ajay Patil had been expected to run for Pinkin’s seat, but a scandal that went public on Thursday allegedly implicating him in a conspiracy involving a racist campaign flyer in a 2017 school board election essentially ends his hopes to win an Assembly race.
Patil is one of the Edison Eight that is potentially facing federal and state investigations
On Wednesday, Patil and another councilman, Robert Diehl, met with postal inspectors and acknowledged his role in a group of local political leaders that designed and distributed a racist mailer that targeted school board member Jerry Shi and his running mate in an apparent bid to boost turnout from the South Asian community, sources said.
Patil disputed the level of involvement in the alleged conspiracy, claiming he and others never attended a meeting at Chowpatty to discuss the flyer.
“No such meeting ever took place, and in fact I have never met with this group at Chowpatty, he said.
Instead, Patil detailed what he told the postal inspector.
“During my statements with authority I corroborated the presence of two employees at Chowpatty Restaurant, when I saw some flyers being assembled and prepared for mailing, which I did not immediately recognize as the flyers in question,” Patil said. “But some of my statements may have been misinterpreted. I did not say that I saw all of the named individuals in the report at the restaurant.”
In a statement, Patil said that he only saw two of the other seven individuals working on the flyer.
“I did visit Chowpatty Restaurant in late October, and I observed a mailing being prepared, although I did not participate in anything that was happening and left the place immediately,” stated Patil. “I saw a few workers — who I now assume included Aloysius and Joseph D’Souza — assembling the mailer. These were the people whose presence I was corroborating.”
The mailer – “Make Edison Great Again” – urged voters to “Stop Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel from taking over our school board.”
“The Chinese and Indians are taking over our Town! Chinese School! Indian School! Cricket Fields,” the flyer said. “Enough is Enough.”
The Edison Eight — the Edison Eight –Wilentz partner and Biden delegate Satish Poondi; former Edison Democratic Municipal Chairman Shariq Ahmad; Mohin Patel, the apparent winner of a school board seat in Tuesday’s election; Raj Bhagia, the brother of Edison Democratic Municipal Chairman Mahesh Bhagia; Aloysius Dsouza; Joseph Dsouza; Shi and Patil – are now radioactive, some Democrats say.
Any candidate associated with the Edison Eight would be unlikely to get support from Democrats in other municipalities.
Stanley would become the first Asian American legislator form a district that has the highest percentage of Asian American residents in the state.
Re-elected to the East Brunswick Council this week by more than 5,000 votes, Stanley declined comment on his interest in running.
Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak (D-Edison)won the other 18th district Assembly seat in a 2016 special election after Patrick Diegnan moved up to the Senate following the confirmation of Peter Barnes III (D-Edison) to a Superior Court judgeship.
This story was updated at 5:37 PM.