By REBECCA HERSH
The June 8 primary election in Edison left residents with one undeniable fact: the next few months of campaigning for mayoral and council positions in Edison will be anything but boring.
Edison Council Vice President Sam Joshi, the official candidate of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization (MCDO), was the overwhelming winner of the township’s Democratic mayoral primary.
This contest was characterized by hostile accusations between Joshi and his opponent Mahesh Bhagia, who happens to be chairman of the local Edison Democratic Organization.
Contributing to the unsettled Democratic political environment is that current Mayor Thomas Lankey, a Democrat, on June 8 filed the paperwork to seek re-election to a third term as mayor, this time as an independent.
He rejected seeking regular Democratic primary endorsement because of a fiscal dispute and possible lawsuit that he has been having with the Edison Democratic Organization.
However, it was that same local Edison Democratic Organization that in February overwhelmingly had backed Bhagia over Joshi for the mayoral nomination – a choice that was rejected by the MCDO.
Middlesex County’s unofficial election results showed Joshi had 5,955 votes, while Edison Democratic Chairman Mahesh Bhagia (3,185 votes) and Arthur “Al” Esposito (546) followed.
Even though residents’ mailboxes during the primary campaign were inundated with fliers accusing Joshi and Bhagia with a variety of wrongdoings, Esposito seemed to have no role in the Joshi/Bhagia dispute.
Joshi received endorsements from key Democrats throughout the state and ran on the MCDO line, while Bhagia ran on the Democrats of Middlesex County line (formerly the Edison Democrats); Esposito ran on the Democrat for Change line.
“The people of Edison have spoken, and now it’s time for our Democratic Party and our community to come together and move forward into a new era of progress, and I could not be more excited to hopefully have the opportunity to lead Edison into that new day,” Joshi wrote in a Facebook post. “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 ran with Township Council candidates Margot Harris, Nish Patel and John Poyner, who also were the top vote-getters in their races. Bhagia ran with Township Council candidates Tom McCain, Shannon Peng and Sparshil Patel. Esposito did not have a slate of running mates.
Harris received an unofficial 5,724 votes, Nish Patel, 5,421 votes and Poyner, 5,445 votes. McCann received 3,531, Sparshil Patel, 3,539 and Peng, 3,580.
Lankey, according to the filing petitions, would run for mayor as an independent with three other current Township Council members: Michael Lombardi, Alvaro Gomez and Lav Patel.
The Republican Hahn previously announced he is running with township council candidates R. Tali Epstein, Joseph Luistro and Payal Mehta.
Rounding out the list of those who want to serve as local elected officials in Edison are two other independent candidates for mayor: Councilman Richard Brescher and Christo Makropoulos.
The results of the election are not official until certified by the Middlesex County Board of Elections, which is expected by June 22.
The general election will be held on Nov. 2.