Bhalla Goes for Broke

JERSEY CITY – Ravi Bhalla remembers his first run for office in Hoboken when someone asked him how many Sikhs live in the city.

He replied there were him, his wife and his children.

Winning elections is all about numbers. Faith and ethnicity certainly can help a candidate get votes.

But it’s not everything, as Bhalla is quick to tell you.

“I didn’t run as a Sikh candidate, but as a candidate who happens to be a Sikh,” Bhalla said Sunday.

He won that original city council  race in Hoboken and was elected mayor in 2017.

Now, he’s trying to proceed further up the political ladder, challenging incumbent Rep. Rob Menendez in the June 4 Democratic primary.

The contest already has an edge, which is no surprise given the indictment of the congressman’s father, Sen. Bob Menendez, on charges that – most colorfully – include the senator receiving gold bars as a bribe.

But in Bhalla’s mind, the problem is not merely the alleged corruption of the senator.

Unlike his opponent, Bhalla says he got his job through hard work, “not because I had support of party bosses.”
“He’s the product of a very corrupt political framework,” he said of the younger Menendez.
Besides the ever-present indictment, Bhalla is referring to the power of local Democratic leaders to anoint candidates, a system now under legal attack. The courts so far have ruled against the “county line,”  or traditional way ballots are designed to favor a particular candidate.

It’s now become fashionable to oppose the county line and Bhalla hopes that sentiment helps him in June. Or as he puts it:

“Voting for me is a vote to reject that … that framework.”

He also talked about his success in governing Hoboken, citing good fiscal planning, clean streets, a good park system and efforts to combat climate change, a pressing issue in a city where flooding is a perennial problem.
The mayor commented after a very non-political event: A celebration of the Sikh event of Vaisakhi at the Jersey City Gurdwara.

Vaisakhi commemorates a 1699 event in India in which the Khalsa Panth – the community of committed Sikhs – was established. On this day, the occasion featured prayer, music, brotherhood, and later, a community meal.

Bhalla addressed the congregation and spoke about the importance of public service.

The mayor tied such service to the “expression of our beliefs” as Sikhs. He said they include helping the neighborhood, respect for all and justice

Bhalla spoke about being mayor of Hoboken, but did not mention his run for Congress. However, he urged his listeners to register to vote and to actually do so. It’s not good enough to merely register, he said

Reflecting on his success in Hoboken, Bhalla encouraged young people in the audience to embrace public service, noting that if he could do it, others can as well. And he said they should not consider their faith or ethnicity an obstacle.

“We’re Americans just like (everyone else), ” he said.

Also on hand for the event were state Assemblyman John Allen (LD-32) and two city council members – Joyce Waterman, the council president, and James Solomon.

The battleground here is a very compact and congested district that covers only about 50 square miles. It includes most of Hudson County plus Elizabeth in Union County and a part of Newark. Menendez was elected in 2022, replacing Albio Sires, who is now the mayor of West New York,.

It is heavily Democratic, meaning the primary is the election.

Editor’s Note: We hope to spend time soon with the Rob Menendez campaign.




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5 responses to “Bhalla Goes for Broke”

  1. Congratulations Ravi. I don’t think Bob Menedez is going get re-elected with the charges that are looming over his head. He’s gonna spend some time with bubba in the big house.

  2. Boy George
    There is no charges against congressman Menendez
    Perhaps you are mistaken with his father.
    We don’t need another progressive in Congress
    They are taking this country to the shambles

  3. Ravi’s brother lives next door to him. He’s Sikh. So are his wife and three kids. I also live in Hoboken with my wife and we are Sikh too. So are three of our friends..

    Shame on Ravi for always playing the victim.

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