EDISON – On the shoulder of a flea bitten highway, the mangy, COVID-19 ravaged dog otherwise known as New Jersey gazes into its own emaciated soul and wails the same old baleful moan: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; while Edison – namesake of the famous inventor – keeps coming up with new ways for politics to get even more vicious.
Sadistic political junkies around the state have already reserved seats for the grim gladiatorial spectacle that is the Democratic Primary here, where contenders Sam Joshi, with a wink from the Middlesex County Democratic Committee, faces Mahesh Bhagia, chair of the local party.
It’s not even May, and it’s already mayhem.
It’s even worse than it looks. A lot of the main combatants are old political allies, most of them fellow veterans of the Mayor Tom Lankey years, who have the dirt on one another. As Lankey’s empire apparently crumbles, they’re not afraid to use it to gain an edge on the town’s political future.
Somehow, retired cop Keith Hahn projects an almost Buddha-like calm through it all, the twinkle in his eye undimmed by time and the twists and turns of his own improbable political career. Maybe that’s because he believes Joshi and Bhagia will be unable to recover from the brutality of a primary fight, leaving him, Edison’s Republican candidate for mayor, poised to take advantage and scale the nearly inconceivable: a general election victory in a town where Democrats outnumber the GOP 4-1.
Hahn grew up here in Edison, and went to work in his hometown as a cop in 1995.
He started out in politics as a Dem.
In 2015, he stunned Town Hall Talleyrand Anthony Russomano by two votes to deny the disciple of local legend Doc Paterniti the party throne, only to lose the chairmanship to Shariq Ahmad in 2017 by one vote, the loss that ultimately set Hahn on the path to changing parties, to seek redemption from disemboweling Democrats in the hands of lonely Republicans, who have had their noses pressed to the window pane of Town Hall for as long as Hahn can remember.
If his enemies want to point to his party switching as evidence of unsteadiness, Hahn says it’s the opposite.
He’s the steady hand.
Democrats are the out-of-control shape shifters.
“Years of consistency, whether serving as Democratic chairman or running the last time [for mayor, in 2017, as a Republican],” Hahn told InsiderNJ. “I think my message has been the same with all the turmoil and controversy, people are looking for someone who is a steady constant.”
We talked about the issues here in Hahn’s hometown today, in the Edison Diner, just blocks from his home, including his fight to buck the sewer contract, his plan to lower taxes, some national issues, the gubernatorial race, including his support for Jack Ciattarelli, Edison politics, his resistance to a bribe at the Skylark, his life as a cop, and his thoughts on what it means to be an Edisonian.
Finally, smiling and perpetually lowkey and calm amid the ongoing wreckage of the local party he abandoned, he pointed to a quote by Thomas Alva on the wall in summary of the spirit of the town he hopes to lead:
“Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
Below, please find the full interview with Republican mayoral candidate Keith Hahn: