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Ravinder Bhalla Becomes First Sikh Mayor In New Jersey State

Ravinder Bhalla was targeted with racist fliers ahead of the election.

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After facing slanderous fliers labeling him a “terrorist” last week, City Councilman Ravinder Bhalla emerged winner in the six-candidate mayoral race. He is the first Sikh mayor of Hoboken and in all of New Jersey.

Bhalla was backed by Dawn Zimmer, the outgoing Mayor, who made a surprise announcement in June about not seeking a third term in office. Bhalla, a New Jersey-born Indian American, tweeted on Nov. 7: “Thank you Hoboken. I look forward to being your Mayor!”

“Thank you for having faith in me, for having faith in our community, faith in our state, and faith in our country; this is what America is all about,” he said at the Moran Pub on Garden Street where he claimed victory, The Jersey Journal reported. “We’ve been through a bruising campaign… but now is the time we come together and see who we can work with to bring this city forward.”

The five other candidates in the fray were council members Michael DeFusco and Jennifer Giattino, Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano, restaurant owner Karen Nason, and cycling advocate Ronald Bautista. The election campaign among the candidates was heated, with several complaints of ethics filed by them against each other — so much so that Romano’s campaign manager Pablo Fonseco called the battle “ugly and divisive”.

The campaigns took an especially ugly turn when fliers attacked Bhalla with the message: “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town” written above his picture. The fliers were an altered version of DeFusco’s campaign mailers, which had said Bhalla had a conflict of interest. DeFusco condemned the altered fliers in a statement released on his social media. Hoboken police are investigating the case as a bias crime.

According to Phil Swibinski, a campaign spokesman for DeFusco, the leader admitted defeat to supporters at his campaign headquarters around 10 p.m. on Nov. 7 and congratulated Bhalla.

DeFusco, in an interview on Nov. 7, said that Bhalla’s narrow margin of victory means he would have to govern by consensus. “I look to working to with Mayor-elect Bhalla, but he by no means has a mandate.”

Zimmer, the outgoing Mayor, said, “Serving the people of Hoboken has been a tremendous honor. I’m proud of everything that we’ve accomplished, and I will miss all the great people I’ve worked with at City Hall who have been a big part of all the great things happening in Hoboken.”

Bhalla will be sworn into office in January.

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