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Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla Loses Congressional Bid to Incumbent Rob Menendez in New Jersey’s 8th District

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla Loses Congressional Bid to Incumbent Rob Menendez in New Jersey’s 8th District

Hoboken, New Jersey mayor Ravi Bhalla lost his congressional bid from the state’s 8th District to Rob Menendez yesterday (June 4) in one of the most closely watched primaries. His opponent, who is the son of embattled U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez faced a difficult political path after his father was indicted on explosive federal bribery charges. 

Bhalla did well in the district’s Jersey City and Hoboken portions, but Menendez won everywhere else in the district, the New Jersey Globe reported. The incumbent got 20,765 votes or 53.7 percent, while Bhalla got 13,837 or 35.8 percent, according to The New York Times data. 

“While tonight wasn’t the outcome we desired, I’m tremendously proud of the campaign we ran,” Bhalla wrote on X. “Democracy won, and the people of our District — for the first time in years — had a true choice at the ballot box.” He thanked his family and the residents of Hoboken, Jersey City, and the voters of the Eighth Congressional District for their support. “Your confidence in your community — and me — showed so many of us what’s possible when we enter the arena and participate,” he wrote. “Serving as Mayor of Hoboken has been, and continues to be, the honor of my lifetime,” he noted, and added that he looks forward “to continuing to serve the residents of our great city.”

A former eight-year member of the Hoboken City Council, Bhalla made history in 2017, by becoming the first Sikh to hold elected office in New Jersey and the first directly elected Sikh to become mayor in the U.S. In November 2021, he was easily elected to another four-year term, in what is described as an “exceptionally rare uncontested mayoral race.”

The Sikh American announced his candidacy last December, after several months of speculation and reports that he was trying to gauge interest in a run, “and had raised $506,000,” according to the Hoboken Patch.

Throughout the campaign, he “tried to shape the primary into a referendum on patronage, corruption and the corrosive influence of machine politics,” The Times reported. He also managed to out-raise Rob Menendez, “bringing in just over $2 million to $1.6 million” raised by his opponent, Axios reported, citing the Federal Election Commission. But many, including Menendez, said Bhalla’s heavy focus on his father showed he was afraid to take on the congressman directly. Some attributed his loss to his inability to highlight the differences between him and his opponent.

Although the younger Menendez was not implicated in the indictment in any way, his associations with his father and their shared last name — were expected to be a huge hindrance in his re-election campaign.

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But, even as much of the party turned its back on his father, his son son “enjoyed establishment support, both New Jersey and Washington, D.C.,” an Axios report said. Top House Democrats including Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) held a fundraiser for him last month,” the report added. Now, the Democratic primary win all but assures Rob Menendez’s election to a second term in New Jersey’s safely Democratic 8th congressional district.

Bhalla came to Hoboken at the age of 26, “a bachelor fresh out of law school starting his first job at a small law firm in Newark, New Jersey,” according to his profile on his website. He received his undergraduate education from the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a B.A. in Political Psychology. Upon graduation, he attended the London School of Economics (L.S.E.) in the United Kingdom and received a Master of Science degree in Public Administration and Public Policy, and also earned a Juris Doctor Degree from Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana. He and his wife Bindya reside in Hoboken with their two children, Arza Kaur and Shabegh Singh.

(Photos, Ravi Bhalla / Facebook)

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