By REBECCA HERSH
Edison’s current mayor has dropped his bid for re-election.
On Aug. 10, Mayor Thomas Lankey, a Democrat who has been mayor for the past eight years, notified the Middlesex County Clerk that he would not be seeking re-election as an independent candidate for mayor this November.
Lav Patel, Michael Lombardi and Alvaro Gomez, who are running for the Edison Township Council on Lankey’s slate, also said they would drop their election bids.
Lankey’s and his team’s withdrawal from the race followed a hotly contested Democratic primary battle for the mayoral position between Edison Council member and current council Vice President Sam Joshi and Edison Democratic Committee Chair Mahesh Bhagia.
The Edison Democratic Committee is the municipal Democratic organization that backed Bhagia for mayor prior to the primary election.
Lankey, on June 8, threw his hat into the ring as an Independent, when it appeared that the Democrats were too divided to offer residents a positive and productive vision for the community.
But over time, Lankey altered his perspective.
“After much reflection, I believe that now is the time for me to unify the Democratic Party and endorse Sam Joshi to lead our town as its next mayor,” Lankey said in a prepared statement. “From preserving our open space to maintaining our roads, to keeping our community safe during the COVID-19 global pandemic, serving my neighbors in Edison has been the honor of my life. I am confident that Sam Joshi is the right person to lead our town to an even brighter future in the years ahead.”
Joshi, who prior to the primary received the endorsement of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization, won the Democratic primary in early June beating Edison Democratic Committee Chair Mahesh Bhagia and a relatively unknown Democratic candidate Arthur Esposito. Middlesex County’s election results showed Joshi had 5,955 votes, while Bhagia received 3,185 votes and Esposito at 546 votes.
Without Lankey in the race, Joshi will face one opponent – Republican candidate Keith Hahn – in the upcoming November election.
Bhagia, however, still remains a voice of challenge among Edison’s Democrats, because the Edison Democratic Committee just reaffirmed Bhagia’s leadership status by electing him once again to the position of chairperson of the local Democratic group. Bhagia defeated Councilman Ajay Patil for the chairperson position by a 66-54 vote at a recent Edison Democratic Committee reorganization.
Also elected were Vice Chair Peng Chen, recording secretary Veena Sinha and corresponding secretary Lisa Salem. Bhagia, Chen and Sinha were all reelected to their positions. Salem is new to the board, which has a goal of increasing the representation of women.
In a Facebook post after the June primary election, Joshi wrote, “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 have the opportunity to lead Edison into that new day. … 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.”