Bhalla’s Hudson Bombshell

Hoboken Mayor Bhalla

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s announcement today to run for Congress against incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez, Jr. (D-8), against the backdrop of Senator Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) implosion on corruption charges, reveals a less than usually totally bubble-wrapped Hudson County in a presidential election year.

Following his father’s crackup, the Hudson County Democratic Organization and attendant allies summoned the resolve to give Menendez, Jr. the thumbs up on his reelection.

Insiders had questioned whether or not the kid could survive his dad’s tormented slide into an international gold bar scandal.

He did, at least insofar as securing coveted establishment backing.

But Bhalla, a recognizable local commodity with fundraising heft, doesn’t buy it, and intends to prove the flimsiness of the incumbent and the party line with his upstart bid to displace the fledgling Menendez dynasty.

As an outsider, he has the added benefit in a Democratic Primary of the likely establishment candidacy of First Lady Tammy Murphy running with Menendez, and unwittingly contributing to the “all-politics-is-nepotism” storyline.

Then there’s Joe Biden over there at the top of that ticket, doing his level best to offer more establishment inertia and bore snore energy.

If that doesn’t have Bhalla pawing at the turf already, there’s U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3), noble leader of the supposedly noble progressive rebellion, running against Tammy Murphy, and presumably available to link up with Bhalla in a show of grassroots resistance.

Menendez, Jr.
Menendez, Jr.

 

Will it matter?

Well, probably not.

The Menendez people are very probably looking at Bhalla as an opportunity, or explaining it to Junior as such, his own personal variation on Donald Payne, Jr.’s beat down of a progressive challenger in neighboring Essex a couple years ago.

Insiders muttered at the time that that young man didn’t have the chops to take on a legitimate headache from the left, but he did, running an overkill campaign, in fact, which left no doubt about his willingness to get scrappy when it counts.

Now, it’s Menendez’s turn, or Menedez Junior, anyway, to prove he can actually don the Joaquin Phoenix bicorn hat and ride out there and wave the sword around while his operatives summarily detonate Bhalla and the line holds, enough to be able to hoist the whole gang onto a few winners’ lists at year’s end.

All without really breaking a sweat, and with the old man in all kinds of hot water.

Might even make Junior a political star, some Menendez Junior handlers are no doubt whispering in his ear.

Bhalla, of course, has other plans, which makes the showdown interesting, particularly with the aforementioned dynamics, and the possibility that in a presidential election year, some Hudson voters might think Junior is Senior, and – conceivably – lash out with anybody but Menendez votes.

This could all be as simple as Where Does Brian Stack Stand?

The apoplectically organization-minded mayor (and state senator) from Union City could mobilize big (as he did for Albio Sires’ West New York mayoral campaign) and simply smother Bhalla. Or is Stack of the playful mind to watch Menendez work a little?

Then there’s Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, already an announced candidate for governor.

Steve Fulop

 

Will he got involved, and if so, how?

Does he trust the Hudson organization will hold up for him until 2025, or, if he doesn’t, does he join the Kim-Bhalla insurrection sooner rather than later? Or does he just say, “Screw it,” and jump in the congressional contest himself and, on the strength of his JC street cred, run over Menendez and the line?

All interesting questions, as Hudson next year – mostly thanks to a gutsy Bhalla – presents more than the usual wasteland of dead and dying politicians, brittle untested party lines, the hopes and dreams of nepotism, and the graveyards of unsung operatives wrapped in the umbilical cord slumbers of Frank Hague.

 

The official announcement below:

Bhalla Announces His Candidacy for Congress in NJ’s 8th District

 

Mayor of Hoboken Ravi Bhalla today announced his candidacy for Congress in NJ’s 8th District. He will be running in the Democratic Primary. Ravi brings to the contest an inspiring life story that exemplifies the promise of America, impressive, earned accomplishments and a track record as mayor of getting the job done on issues that matter to people.

 

“We are at a pivotal moment in our nation, facing rising sea levels, rising inequality and rising hatred,” said Ravi Bhalla. “For Congress to rise to the challenge, we need new voices and new leadership—leadership that is focused on making real progress on solving problems and ensuring that all New Jerseyans and Americans no matter their skin color, ethnicity, gender, whom they choose to love, or where they started in life can still realize the American Dream.”

 

Ravi continued, “As our Congressman, I will fight to make healthcare a right for everyone, take on climate change, protect a woman’s right to choose, battle back against hatred, and build an economy that works for all.”

 

One of only 22 elected officials selected by the US Department of State to serve on an inaugural Assembly of Local Leaders (ALL) to address “global challenges that effect local communities, Bhalla recently participated in COP28, the UN Climate Summit, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “The climate crisis is not a predetermined catastrophe, but a challenge we can and must meet,” said Ravi.

 

Elected mayor of Hoboken in 2017 and re-elected in 2021, Ravi Bhalla’s innovative leadership, dedication and management skills are moving Hoboken forward. Under his leadership, the city is becoming more resilient and prepared to withstand the impacts of climate change and leading the way in taking on Big Oil, becoming the first city in New Jersey to file suit to hold these large corporations accountable for the high costs generated by global warming. This set an example that many other cities and the State of New Jersey have followed.

 

As mayor, Ravi oversaw the design, creation and opening of ResilienCity Park, one of the largest resiliency parks in the country, and has planned for the creation of three additional resiliency parks, all designed with infrastructure to combat flooding.  These parks are also expanding active recreation options and creating more open space, boosting quality of life.

 

He launched Hoboken’s Vision Zero pedestrian safety initiative, making Hoboken a safer place to walk, bike and drive. This initiative was lauded by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as a nation-wide model. For 6 straight years with Ravi at the helm, Hoboken has received a perfect 100% score from the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Municipal Equality Index (MEI) for its LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies and laws.

 

Ravi served on the Hoboken City Council from 2010 to 2017, serving as Council President for part of his tenure. Nationally recognized for his work as a civil rights attorney, Ravi led a successful campaign to reform the federal government’s visitation policies at correctional facilities nationwide.

 

He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, received a Master’s Degree from the London School of Economics and earned his law degree at Tulane Law School. He and his wife Bindya live in Hoboken with their two children, Arza Kaur, age 16, and Shabegh Singh, age 11. The son of immigrants who came to the United States from India to work hard, pursue opportunity, and practice their Sikh faith in peace, Ravi was born and raised in New Jersey.  If elected, Ravi Bhalla would be the first ever turbanned Sikh member of the United States Congress.

 

A link to Ravi’s announcement video is provided here:  https://youtu.be/NfpcyJL2mQA   and the script can be found below:  The campaign website:  http://www.bhallafornj.com

 

 

###

RAVI, Voiceover] This… is a story about a Jersey kid.

 

Who grew up not looking like all the other Jersey kids.

 

[RAVI, Direct to Camera] My parents came here from India to work hard and honestly, with only the promise of opportunity.

 

And to practice our Sikh faith in a country where it is self-evident that all of us are created equal.

 

But that didn’t stop the schoolyard bullies from hurling insults or tugging on my hair.

 

I fought back. The only way I knew how.

 

On the diamond.

 

And the court.

 

When my baseball helmet wouldn’t slide over my patka…

 

My coach modified one that would fit me on the field.

 

He knew our team was stronger when each of us could play.

 

In the courtroom, I fought barriers to access and for those who faced discrimination.

 

Hate has many faces.

 

But all are cowardly and familiar.

 

[Anchor: “A racist flier in Hoboken.”]

 

[Anchor 2: “A candidate for mayor labeled a terrorist on a leaflet.”]

 

On the city council, I helped clean up a city suffering from graft and mismanagement.

 

And my first act as mayor was to declare Hoboken a welcome city for all.

 

But with rising inequality and climbing sea levels…

 

This moment requires change that is momentous.

 

I believe that health care is a human right.

 

Housing is a human right.

 

Reproductive rights… are human rights.

 

The climate crisis is not a predetermined catastrophe, but a challenge we can and must meet.

 

My name is Ravi Bhalla.

 

As mayor I tackled these problems head on.

 

[Newscaster: “A new renewable energy program in Hoboken, Mayor Ravi Bhalla says it will allow residents to get more of their energy from green sources.”]

 

 

Now, I’m running for Congress in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District…

 

…because I believe that America is better than the demagogues who seek to divide us…

 

… or the politicians who strive only to serve themselves.

 

I believe in the idea of America that my parents came to with seven dollars to their name… and dreams that anything was possible.

 

Where an immigrant story is the American story.

 

And where this Jersey kid…

 

….Can be proud to raise some Jersey kids of his own.

 

To work towards a brighter future for them. And for you.

 

Statement by Congressman Rob Menendez

 

“Since day one, I have been singularly focused on delivering for the people I have the honor to serve, closing over 1,100 constituent cases and helping to bring over $11 billion in federal funding back to the 8th Congressional District. I’ve fought Republican extremism to stand up for women’s reproductive rights, to make our streets safer from senseless gun violence and to protect and expand affordable childcare.  That’s why I’m proud of the deep support and trust from leaders and residents from across the district for our re-election.

“I welcome Ravi into the race especially since he can validate the work we’ve done on behalf of the residents of Hoboken including advocating for the expansion of the Southwest Resiliency Park, supporting Safe Streets for All grants for Hoboken, battling helicopter noise, and introducing the Local Solutions to End Homelessness Act to benefit Hoboken and Hudson County. While we have advocated tirelessly for Hoboken, it seems the only reason Ravi has entered the race after endorsing me in 2022 and publicly applauding our work this year is because a week after losing control of the city council, he sees no political future for himself in Hoboken.”

 

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