Riven with political strife, the Township of Edison faces the prospect later this year of life after Mayor Tom Lankey.
But Lankey himself isn’t sure if he wants to go.
Jettisoned by local Democrats, the incumbent mayor of the sprawling suburban burgh has left open the option of running for reelection as an independent.
There is confusion – some of it propounded by his political enemies, possibly confounded by Lankey’s allies, who keep them guessing – about his intentions.
People in Town Hall on Monday said he looked like “a sad puppy,” according to one source, beset by the ongoing antagonisms of those who object to incumbent Lankey’s appointment of Nilesh Dasondi as his special assistant.
Protesters crowded the parking lot apron of the Mirage Banquet Hall last week to shower their feelings on the mayor as he went inside to a reelection fundraiser hosted by none other than Dasondi.
The mayor found himself swarmed by signs condemning his choice, who last year in Facebook posts referred to COVID-19 as “the China virus.”
Chants of “Shame on Lankey” rained.
In the aftermath, there was speculation that the incumbent – rather than running as an independent – would back the mayoral candidacy of Republican Keith Hahn, another former semi-darling of the local Democratic Party turned persona non grata.
On Tuesday, Lankey – hardly sounding like the dejected dance partner jeered at by party poohbahs – said he is leaving his options open.
“I’ve not made any announcement,” the mayor told InsiderNJ.
He panned the local Democratic organization.
“I gave them a loan of $25,000 and they haven’t paid me back,” he said.
Irritated, “I’m seriously considering filing to run as an independent,” he acknowledged.
Local Democratic Party Chairman Mahesh Bhagia has the local line, as he attempts to hack through a series of headline headaches in the wake of grabbing his party’s formal support. As evidence of fractures within fractures, the Middlesex County Democratic Committee has it in for Bhagia, caught in the compacter of warring party organizations.
On the one hand, Lankey seemed relieved of the whole mess of trying to juggle the duties of being a Democrat in Edison/Middlesex.
But as for him running again, he will have to figure out if he can team up with Hahn and or Council President Robert “Bob” Diehl. Those three men would saw into one another’s candidacies if they don’t co-join, say sources.
For the mayor, who doesn’t have to decide until June whether he will advance his campaign as an independent, it all adds up to one thing at the moment: conversations.
Simultaneously, the Democrat on Democrat brawl appears to be morphing into an open primary in the public name of democracy, otherwise known as a machine-cooked-up solution to dumping Bhagia off the line.
That would set up a Bhagia v. Sam Joshi battle, with former Councilwoman Sapana Shah already out of the race.