Home>Campaigns>Three Edison incumbents lose party support for re-election

Edison Democratic Municipal Chairman Mahesh Bhagia. Photo: Facebook.

Three Edison incumbents lose party support for re-election

Municipal chairman seems to wrestle control of township council from Democratic mayor

By David Wildstein, March 21 2023 10:01 am

Three incumbent coouncilmembers in Edison were denied party support for re-election after candidates backed by controversial Democratic municipal chairman Mahesh Bhagia won a vote of the local Democratic county committee in New Jersey’s sixth-largest municipality last night.

Incumbent Richard Brescher, a Bhagia ally, led with 80 votes, followed by Asaf Shmuel (65), Robert Kentos (62), and Lav Patel (56) in a contest of ten candidates for four council seats.

Ajay Patil, a two-term incumbent who has broken loose of Bhagia, received 55 votes, putting him off the slate by one vote.    Two-term Councilman Joseph Coyle finished sixth with 49 votes, followed by Rajesh Pandya (44) and Thomas White (38).

First-term incumbent Joyce Ship-Freeman, came in ninth with 35 votes, followed by Shilpan Patel (16).

The vote jeopardizes a working council majority for Democratic Mayor Sammy Joshi, who could potentially wind up with a council where his allies have just three votes on the seven-member township council.

It’s still not clear Coyle, Ship-Freeman and their running mates will challenge Team Bhagia in the June Democratic primary.

Republicans are expected to name their ticket at the end of the week, ahead of the March 27 filing deadline.

Joshi beat Bhagia by 29 points in the June 2021 Democratic primary.

The local Democratic Party had endorsed Bhagia with 72% of the vote, but the Middlesex County Democratic organization cited a continuing controversy over a racist flyer that circulated during the 2017 campaign – Bhagia has been accused of being one of the masterminds – and gave the line to Joshi and his council slate.

In 2021, the state attorney general empaneled a grand jury and subpoenaed documents related to the probe.  That matter is still pending.

Last summer, Middlesex Democrats filed a lawsuit after Bhagia refused to hold elections for party leadership positions.  Bhagia later relented and held his seat.

All 156 Democratic county committee seats in Edison are up in June.

Spread the news: