A race-baiting anonymous mailer has again emerged in Edison, where a supporter of mayoral candidate Mahesh Bhagia sent a letter to Indian American voters promoting an endorsement by a prominent Pakistani American leader and asking them to support Sam Joshi in the Democratic primary.
Corrado Belgiovine, a Bergen County resident who says he is supporting Bhagia, acknowledged paying for the flyer, which appears to exploit a historical distrust between India and Pakistan.
Belgiovine told the New Jersey Globe that he spent “about $1,000” and said he knew the mailer touting support for Joshi from Edison’s Pakistani community had targeted Indian American voters. But he declined to identify the person he was dealing with from the Bhagia campaign.
“Someone asked if I would support this,” Belgiovine said. “I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it.”
He said that he and Bhagia “run in the same circles.”
“We’re supporting that guy,” said Belgiovine. “Bhagia is the guy I like.”
The new anonymous mailer resembles a similar tactic employed during a 2017 local race in Edison that was aimed to instill fear among Asian American voters in order to increase voter turnout.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has empaneled a grand jury to probe that flyer, and some witnessed have identified Bhagia as one of the masterminds.
The “Dear Neighbor” mailer touts an endorsement of Joshi by Pakistani community leader Abrar Sam Khan and asks voters to “support Sam Joshi and the entire Column A on June 8.”
“Please support Sam Khan and Sam Joshi by voting for Sam Joshi for mayor,” the letter said. It’s signed “Your Neighbors” and has a disclaimer that says, “Paid for by independent resident, not paid for by any candidate or candidate committee.”
The mailer includes photos of Khan and Joshi and quotes Khan’s endorsement saying – in boldface – “politicians (on Column A) have openly defended and supported the Pakistani and greater Muslim community.”
Belgiovine, a former Republican councilman in Woodcliff Lake, defended his role in the mailer.
“This was a clean piece,” he said. “It was not a slanderous piece in any way.”
The mailer was sent bulk mail with a return address that was the same as the Jersey City property management company Belgiovine runs. He also owns a real estate agency in Hoboken.
The Joshi campaign bashed Bhagia for another racist tactic.
“Once again Mahesh Bhagia has been caught red handed trying to divide the community with an obvious dirty trick playing on racial and religious resentment and trying to use it for his political advantage,” said Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for the Joshi campaign. “These kinds of filthy and potentially illegal tactics have no place in Edison and that’s why residents are rallying around Sam Joshi to end the divisiveness and bring this community together with new, inclusive leadership.”
The Edison Democratic Municipal Chairman, Bhagia was denied the organization line in April after party leaders grew increasingly uncomfortable with his alleged role in the 2017 racist flyer incident – and after the attorney general launched his investigation.
Bhagia did not immediately respond to an 8:13 PM telephone call and text message.