Last week, before the Sept. 5 deadline, Hoboken, N.J. mayoral candidate Ravi Bhalla, submitted close to 2,750 signatures to the Town Clerk’s office so he could be on the Nov. 7 ballot. Only 360 signatures were needed to qualify.
But this overreach is the hallmark of Bhalla’s campaign, which has knocked on 3,000 doors in his constituency over the last 6-8 weeks. Next week, volunteers will fan out to reach an equal if not larger number in the remaining weeks leading up to election day.
His beard and turban, Bhalla told Desi Talk, are in fact an asset rather than a liability during the campaign in which 6 candidates, a majority of them Democrats like him, are vying for the seat. Bhalla believes he is positioned among the four in the lead. And there’s a reason for his confidence. The much-loved previous mayor, Dawn Zimmer, is well-liked for her leadership, and out of the slew of candidates who jumped into the frey after she announced her resignation June 20, Zimmer picked Bhalla as her favorite. The four leading candidates include Councilman Bhalla, City Council President Jennifer Giattino, Freeholder Anthony Romano, and Councilman Michael DeFusco. The other two are businesswoman Karen Nason, and cycling advocate Ronald Bautista.
In the plurality-based, non-partisan election, Bhalla hopes to secure the most votes. “Our team is in the best position. My greatest asset is Mayor Zimmer’s endorsement and her confidence in me” Bhalla said. “People generally are very happy with her performance as Mayor, and we worked together for 8 years,” he told Desi Talk. While Hoboken is heavily Democratic, the vote being split so many ways among the number of Democratic candidates, could take away some of that support from Bhalla. He credits his campaign style with raising the bar for victory. And his slate which includes Councilman Jim Doyle, Emily Jabbour, and John Allen for At-large City Council seats.
“Ours is a grassroots campaign fueled by volunteers and with a lot of work on the ground,” he said. Most mornings will find Bhalla stationed outside a train station or bus stop, shaking hands and introducing himself as he greets commuters. His Twitter account sees a daily input of pictures with various members of the community. “My evenings and weekends are spent meeting people at parks and going door-to-door,” he said.
The Indian-American community state-wide and especially in North and Central Jersey, has been “very supportive” Bhalla says, inviting him to their homes or their businesses and contributing generously.