Seeking to sidestep a lawsuit, controversial Edison Democratic Municipal Chairman Mahesh Bhagia has caved and scheduled a reorganization meeting to elect officers on September 8.
Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe filed a lawsuit last week to force Bhagia to hold elections for party offices in Edison that were required by statute and bylaws.
“The prolonged absence of action and willful negligence by the current municipal Chair left a void I was compelled to fill,” McCabe said. “It is truly a shame that such drastic action needed to be taken. However, I could not stand idly by and have the Edison Chairman’s abdication of leadership and selfish act prevent Committee Members from having a fair, honest, and transparent reorganization meeting.”
Bhagia sent an email today announcing that he’ll hold an election. He has not announced if he will seek re-election, and no candidates have indicated their intention to challenge him.
He also set a filing deadline of 5 PM on August 26, although a review of the Edison Democratic party bylaws do not indicate any authority to prevent nominations from the floor.
And Bhagia is requiring elected members of the county committee to validate their identity, something national and state Democrats have opposed until recently.
“You MUST bring a valid photo ID (such as US passport or NJ driver’s license) to cast a ballot,” Bhagia said in his meeting notice.
It’s not clear if McCabe will drop his lawsuit, or if Democrats find Bhagia’s decision to wait four more weeks to hold the election acceptable.
Bhagia was re-elected in 2021 by a 66-54 vote against Councilman Ajay Patil, 55%-45%, but so far there is no announced candidate for a contest that has not yet been scheduled.
That race came weeks after Bhagia lost an off-the-line bid for the Democratic mayoral nomination.
Bhagia is one of the Edison Eight, a group of local politicians accused by a U.S. Postal Inspector as being responsible for an anonymous racist flyer in 2017. The state attorney general has empaneled a grand jury to probe the cold case.
As a result of the scandal and law enforcement investigation, McCabe refused to award the organization line for mayor last year to Bhagia and instead endorsed Sam Joshi, a councilman. Joshi scored a landslide victory, defeating Bhagia by 29 percentage points.