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State Sen. Patrick Diegnan. (Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe.)

Diegnan, slate defeat challengers in District 18

By Nikita Biryukov, June 08 2021 11:57 pm

A slate of incumbents led by State Sen. Pat Diegnan (D-South Plainfield) defeated candidates aligned with Edison Democratic Municipal Chairman Mahesh Bhagia Tuesday.

Assemblymen Sterley Stanley (D-East Brunswick) and Robert Karabinchak (D-Edison) beat Lisa Salem, of Edison, and Maurice Alfaro Sr., of Metuchen, to win their nominations.

Diegnan beat Edison Board of Education vice president Mohin Patel, who was among the eight individuals implicated by a U.S. Postal Service investigation into a racist 2017 flyer that called on voters to “make Edison great again” and warned the “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”

Diegnan won 11,003 votes to Patel’s 3,586. The Assembly margins were similarly broad. Karabinchak finished first with 10,405 votes, while Stanley got 10,315. Salem placed third with 4,248, and Alfaro got 3,345.

Despite Patel’s position at the top of the ticket, the slate was led by Bhagia, who ran for Edison mayor against Councilman Sam Joshi.

County Democrats backed the incumbents and Joshi after growing increasingly uncomfortable with Bhagia’s alleged role in drafting the 2017 mailer, which is now the subject of a state criminal probe.

The challengers ran under the slogan “Democrats of Middlesex County.”

Patel courted controversy more than once while making his bid for state office. He drew fire from the Middlesex County Education Association after calling for teachers to be subject to psychological evaluations.

He also apologized for a series of anti-Muslim Facebook posts after they were reported by the New Jersey Globe.

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