A Princeton-based company that runs an after-school robotics program and summer came is facing criticism after their Edison location sent out an email to parents asking them to vote for Mahesh Bhagia for mayor in next week’s Democratic primary.
“I gave them my email address because I signed my child up for the program,” said one parent, whose name is being withheld for their privacy. “I never thought they would use their customer list to advance a political agenda. That’s not right.”
The owner of Steam Works Studios, Shubhendu Das, told the New Jersey Globe that his franchisee in Edison, Karthick Iyer, sent the email and that his company doesn’t want to be involved in politics.
“We are just a kids program,” Das said. “We have nothing to do with any mayoral thing.
Das chastised Iyer for involving his brand in a bitter local political fight.
“It should not have come from Steam Works Studios,” said Das. “We have nothing to do with politics. This should never have happened.”
Iyer did not respond to a Friday afternoon email seeking comment.
The decision to co-opt a youth program to get votes might cost Bhagia more votes than it gets him.
“I’m not going to vote for him now,” said another Edison parent whose name is also being withheld. “And I’m going to speak with Steam Works. Leave my kids out of it, please. They all have some nerve.”
It’s not immediately clear whether Bhagia reported the email, which includes a campaign flyer with bios of his council slate, as an in-kind contribution to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. He has not yet filed any reports of his campaign finances.