An Edison mayoral candidate is asking Middlesex County Democrats to deny the organization line to Mahesh Bhagia, the beleaguered Democratic municipal chairman.
Sapana Shah wants an open primary and says that allegations that Bhagia was the mastermind behind a racist flyer circulated during a 2017 local campaign ought to invalidate the result s of an Edison Democratic committee vote to endorse him for mayor.
The cold case remains unsolved by the state attorney general.
“Although these allegations are yet unproven, the appearance of unethical conduct or potentially illegal behavior sufficiently taints Mr. Bhagia’s candidacy,” said Shah, a former councilwoman. “To list him on the MCDO’s ballot line potentially sullies the integrity of other Democratic candidates running in the Primary.”
Another councilman, Ajay Patil, was captured on tape saying that he saw Bhagia and Satish Poondi, a partner at the Wilentz law form, preparing the racist mailer just before the 2017 general election.
Council President Robert Diehl said that Patil told the same thing to a U.S. Postal Investigator. Mayor Lankey and Diehl said they both believe Patil’s story.
In addition to Shah and Bhagia, Councilmen Sam Joshi and Richard Brescher are also seeking the Democratic mayoral nomination.
Lankey did not seek the endorsement of the Edison Democrats for renomination. He has not announced if he would run off the line in the Democratic primary, or seek re-election to a second term as an independent.
Diehl said that Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone is investigating the mailer.
Bhagia did not answer his phone and his voice mail is full. Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe did not immediately respond to a 12:13 PM email seeking comment.
Click play to hear Edison Council President Robert Diehl talk to New Jersey Globe editor David Wildstein on the New Jersey Globe Power Hour on Talk Radio 77 WABC on Saturday.