In an agonizing duel to rule Edison, one fraught with history, fractious fighting, incredibly strange bedfellows, and ultimately revenge, Shariq Ahmad prevailed tonight at the Pines Manor by turning out incumbent Keith Hahn
for the chairmanship of the local Democratic Committee.
A cop promoted to detective who nursed controversy in the weeks and months following his 2015 take down of the Doc Pateriniti-groomed Anthony Russomano, Hahn lost to Ahmad by one vote.
The final was 71-70 Ahmad, as the sitting chairman failed to diffuse an insurrection by minority members of the committee, which came tinged with the byzantine bloom of establishment politics – and the fierce resurrection of a local political animal.
Ahmad serves as the chief of staff to Assemblyman Robert Karibinchak (D-18), who got to the statehouse in part politically owing to a deal Hahn cut with the Middlesex Democratic Committee, presumably to keep his chairmanship, with his further support sealed for incumbent Mayor Tom Lankey. The surfacing of a warpaint-wearing Ahmad as an 11th hour challenger infuriated Hahn fans, who feared the complicity of the Middlesex Democratic Party brain trust and a quiet tomahawking of their chief.
There were deeper layers of politics under the personalities.
Phil Murphy for Governor had strong ties to Ahmad, while Hahn was an early backer of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulup for Governor.
Sources say Murphy backers wanted Hahn gone.
Dogged by years of headline headaches concerning ranks that often blocked out minority leadership, the establishment found itself with a unique opportunity to gong that narrative while simultaneously off-loading wild man Hahn.
Their perfect candidate was Ahmad, who worked for company man Karabinchak.
Karibinchak evidently resisted, fearful of ticking off Hahn. Lankey too had little appetite for towel snapping the sitting chairman.
But that wasn’t it.
It could be spun that way perhaps.
But there was someone else who wanted that and then some.
Ironically, Hahn had shocked the Paterniti crowd two years ago by cutting a deal with Councilman Bob Diehl and South Asian committee members, but this time it was evidently Russomano – angered by how things went down with Hahn in their 2015 tilt – working the shadows.
“Anthony is back,” a source said, referring to the local political animal. It was Russomano, the party source insisted, the on-the-ground mechanics ultimately having little to do with Middlesex County Democratic Committee Chairman Kevin McCabe. Suffering backlash after he dumped an African American county committee member (who later won her seat), and who went live with a steamed anti-Hahn protest, the incumbent Democratic chairman lost 20 seats last week in elections, which obviously hurt him in a close contest.
Russomano was more than happy to take advantage of his conqueror’s missteps.
And so was Ahmad.
And so were the backers of Ahmad in addition to Russomano, namely the Indian Business Association.
The IBA was a key ally for Russomano, and , depending on one’s point of view, the real architect of Hahn’s downfall. The IBA’s candidate lost to the Hahn-backed Sam Joshi for the council seat given up by Sapana Shah, who had run afoul of Hahn. Following Mahesh Baghia’s lost to Joshi, the IBA organized and unified.
Also ironically, Joshi beat Baghia by one vote to get the support of the Edison Democratic Party.
For Baghia, the IBA and Russomano – an unlikely alliance settled in behind Ahmad – tonight was payback time, payback for a coalition built mostly of Indians, Orthodox Jews, and Asians.
The suspense was agonizing as handlers made their way slowly through box one, then two, the huge-turnout event stretching toward the hour and a half-hour mark. For more back drop on this story, please go here.