Many Desis Win Primaries In New Jersey

Several persons of South Asian origin have won the party primaries in the state of New Jersey,held on June 8th this year in the state of New Jersey. Currently, there are three elected to the NJ state Assembly/Senate. Indian-American State Senator in Vin Gopal won the primaries and the other two Indian-Americans in the Assembly are Raj Mukherji and Sterly Stanley, who won a special election tonight for State Assembly in the 18th district in January 2021. All the three are set to go in November and will most probably win back their seats. Nevertheless, Gopal told Desi Talk he would take no chances and campaign for every vote.

Samip Joshi won the Democratic party Primary in his run for the Mayor of Edison Township. Joshi had many high-profile endorsements party high-ups favored him with, from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, and Gov. Phil Murphy downwards, and was engaged in a battle with fellow Democrat Mahesh Bhagia. Joshi won 5,995 votes to Bhagia’s 3,185, according to reporting based on Middlesex County Board of Elections.

“I want to thank my campaign team, the many Democratic leaders who embraced my candidacy and especially the people of Edison who saw clearly that we need a new direction for our community,” Joshi went on to say, concluding with, “I look forward to the General Election and hopefully to beginning a new administration in January that will deliver the bold, transformative leadership that Edison deserves.” Joshi is expected to face Republican candidate Keith Hahn, retired township police officer, and incumbent Mayor Tom Lankey, in the November elections.

In the State Senate, Gopal will fight against Republican Lori Annetta on November 2. Gopal turned the Red County (Montgomery) into blue when he got elected in an upset victory four years ago. “New Jersey is becoming more and more blue – over the last ten years,” he told Desi Talk. There are one million more Democrats registered today than before, he said, which gives this party the advantage. “I beat a very, very, very difficult incumbent in the last election, and I am going to take nothing for granted.” Gopal draws support from members of both parties, he noted. Sadaf Jaffer, two-term mayor of Montgomery Township, won the district 16 primary for the Democratic Party nomination and goes on November. At last count when the mail-in votes had yet to be added, Jaffer had won 44.19 percent of the vote and her running mate had secured 42.07 percent.

“This District is a purple district till a few years ago when it was all Republican,” she said. “I am very confident of winning the seat,” and she attributes that to the hard work done during the pandemic to keep the public informed and working as a team to marshal local and state resources and help small business and others. At the local grassroots level, Jaffer developed a Crisis Plan, and networked with very diverse communities. Jaffer’s ancestry goes back to the Kutch region of India and to Pakistan.

In District 18, Republican Vihal Patel was uncontested in his party primary for the State Assembly. On the Democratic side in this district, Mohin Patel lost the primary against Patrick Diegnan Jr. who won 75 percent of his party’s vote. So Patel will face off against Diegnan in November. Another uncontested Republican was Agha Khan who is running for the NJ State Senate Seat from District 33. He will face off against incumbent Sen. Brian Stack who was also unopposed. Notably, Stack won the 2017 election to the State Senate with 88.22 percent of the votes while his Republican opponent got less than 12 percent. Khan’s fate is not on the winning side. Khan tried his luck back in 2016 running as a Republican for the U.S. House of Representatives from District 8 in New Jersey.

Hirsh Singh, a Republican lost in a four-way primary for the Governor’s seat, but did not do too badly, securing 21.49 percent of the vote. Bina Shah, another GOP candidate for the State Assembly from District 14, along with her partner on the slate Andrew Pachuta, will be pitted against Wayne DeAngelo and Daniel Benson. One of the difficult races is the one from District 21, that saw Anjali Mehrotra, a community organizer and is President of the National Organization for Women of New Jersey. “This is a very competitive district,” Mehrotra told Desi Talk, with incumbents being all Republicans for the longest time, but with a trend favoring Democrats over the last decade.

“This year is a great opportunity for a pick up,” Mehrotra said. “We’re hoping to get two more Democrats into the Assembly.” Mehrotra and Elizabeth Graner go against Republicans Michele Matsikoudis and incumbent Nancy Munoz, who Mehrotra noted got the lowest percentage of votes despite being an incumbent.“This is definitely an opportunity to grow the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) caucus in the Assembly,” Mehrotra said, emphasizing that she decided to run when Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, the first Indian-American to be elected to the NJ lower house, said more South Asians needed to put their hats in the ring. District 21 is a suburban area with generally highly educated and wealthy electorate. Mehrotra sees women in the District going for her because of her past work on women’s issues.

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