Another Racist Campaign Flyer Hits NJ — and Candidate Says it’s Fake
HOBOKEN — On the same week that a bigoted school board campaign mailer in Edison made national news, another racist attack ad hit the streets in a different municipality.
The mayoral ad that appeared Friday on Hoboken windshields pictures a turban-wearing Sikh councilman with the large, red words "Don't let TERRORISM take over our town!" The rest of the flyer is about a conflict of interest involving a utility deal and makes no further mention of terrorism.
The pamphlet says it was paid for by one of Councilman Ravi Bhalla's five opponents — Mike DeFusco. But DeFusco on Saturday condemned the ad and said his campaign had nothing to do with it.
"Whoever wrote it will be found," DeFusco, who is hoping to become the Mile Square City's first openly gay mayor, said during a news conference. "We have been working with the police department, we have been working with all relevant authorities to find who is responsible."
The ad in Hoboken follows one in Edison in which the pictures of a Chinese-American school board member and his Indian-American running mate appear with "DEPORT" stamps over them.
“The Chinese and Indians are taking over our town!” it declares. “Chinese school! Indian school! Cricket fields! Enough is enough!”
Unlike in Hoboken, the Edison mailer does not leave any clue as to who may have paid for it, leading some to suggest that it was done to make Republicans look bad. The mailer is headlined "Make Edison Great Again" — echoing President Donald Trump's campaign slogan.
State election law requires political literature to identify which organization or individual paid for it.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said Thursday that it was investigating the mailer to see whether any criminal laws were broken.
A spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service said that without a mailing permit number, there is no way to trace to who sent the pieces.
In Hoboken, Bhalla said the flyer left his wife in tears.
“The hardest part as a father was answering my daughter’s questions, asking ‘Why are people attacking you because you wear a turban?'" the New York Daily News quoted him as saying.
"I want to use this incident as an opportunity to affirm to each other and our children the value of living in a diverse community where we are judged by the content of our character - not by the color of our skin or how we worship," he said on Facebook. "At this time in our nation’s history when we have a president who seeks to divide us, it is critical that we come together as a community and stand up for American values."
The city of 54,000 people has six candidates vying to replace Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who did not seek re-election. The city's elections are non-partisan.
DeFusco, who says he is wrongly being blamed for the flyer, says he has been the subject of vicious attacks that targeted his sexuality and ethnicity.
During the news conference he showed a pamphlet that he says likened him to "an Italian-American crime boss." The sheet depicts the words "The DeFusco Family" with puppet strings that evoking the logo of "The Godfather" movies.
"This election is being influenced significantly through the financial interference by an outside super PAC that has funneled $50,000 worth of money to one of my opponents," DeFusco said.
Another mayoral candidate, Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano, also condemned the pamphlet on Saturday as "offensive to all of us."
"Those who assume a Sikh, a Muslim or a Middle Eastern person equates to terrorism are acting in a fearful and racist manner," he said in an emailed statement. "Racism has no place in Hoboken and we must stand together against this."