Three Democratic candidates for Middlesex County Commissioner – incumbents Ronald Rios and Shanti Narra and Commissioner-designate Chanelle McCullum – have endorsed Sam Joshi in the upcoming Edison Democratic primary.
The three officials said they wrote to the Democratic county chairman, Kevin McCabe, earlier this week to urge him to deny the organization line to Mahesh Bhagia, the embattled Democratic municipal chairman.
“Our reasons were quite clear: Mr. Bhagia was supporting a slate of candidates who were challenging us and our friends and colleagues in the 18th legislative district in this June’s primary,” the three said.
“We are gratified that we will not have to run on the same ticket as Mr. Bhagia, who multiple press reports have named as a participant in the dissemination of the racist, anti-Chinese and South Asian flyer that circulated in Edison during the 2017 election,” Rios, Narra and McCullum said. “A federal investigation has claimed that members of Mr. Bhagia’s inner circle were complicit in this disgusting attack on the Edison community. Now, the attorney general has empaneled a grand jury to investigate.”
McCabe and Gov. Phil Murphy also endorsed Joshi today.
Bhagia has been accused of being one of the masterminds behind the flyer, and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has now empaneled a grand jury and subpoenaed documents related to a municipal probe of the incident.
The Edison mailer promised to “Make Edison Great Again,” by telling voters that the “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.” It targeted school board candidates of Chinese and Indian descent, with the word “deported” stamped over their photos.
“In light of this and because of Mr. Bhagia’s support for our opponents, we would have had difficulty running on the same line as Mr. Bhagia,” Rios, Narra and McCullum said. “We are relieved that we will be instead running with Councilman Sam Joshi, whom many of us know from his years as an effective elected official in Edison, and with his slate of council candidates.”
McCullum is slated to take the seat of Commissioner Kenneth Armwood, who died last week at age 46.