An incumbent New Jersey politician, who lost to an Indian American challenger last year, went on a rant on Facebook Jan. 31, accusing him of winning because Indian Americans “illegally voted” for him.
Sam Davis, the incumbent committeeman for the rural township of Chesterfield, New Jersey, lost to challenger Shreekant Dhopte by a margin of 116 votes in the Nov. 6, 2018 general election. Interestingly, there were two Indian American candidates in the race in the largely Caucasian small town, which has a population of a little over 10,000 people: Jignesh Shah ran as an independent. Dhopte received the endorsement of the Democratic Party.
“This has made me feel so angry and disrespected,” Dhopte told India-West, characterizing the accusations against him and the small Indian American community in Chesterfield as “baseless.” The new committeeman, who was sworn in Jan. 7, said he has not yet decided if he will file a lawsuit for libel against Davis. He noted that there were only 300 Indian Americans registered to vote in Chesterfield, and that he won with 1,157 votes to Davis’s 1043.
As the race began last April, Davis invited Dhopte to his home. The two agreed to keep the race clean, and not descend to negative politicking. But that all changed as race results came in election night, said Dhopte, noting that Davis initially refused to concede and then never congratulated him on his win.
The incumbent ran unopposed in the previous election and served one term in office. “He considered himself entitled: he is a sore loser,” said Dhopte, adding he hoped to resolve the matter by sitting down with Davis in an open forum.
“An Indian guy ran against me and he beat me by 116 votes,” said Davis in the middle of a long rant about “illegal immigrants” on Facebook, sparked by the comment that he would not tip a restaurant server if he knew they were undocumented.
“I know for a fact that all the Indian people in Chesterfield voted for him and I also know that they are not United States citizens,” claimed Davis.
“It’s the law that you must be a citizen to vote,” said the retired Republican school teacher, who frequently dresses up as George Washington. He noted there is a $15,000 fine for voting illegally.
Davis noted in his post that he has taken his case to the Burlington County, New Jersey Prosecutor’s office. “I can’t wait until those people are slapped with that big fine. That’ll teach them a lesson,” ranted Davis in a post which India-West has cleaned up for grammar.
Davis could not be reached for comment.
Dhopte told India-West that he was given to understand that Davis did file a complaint asking for an investigation of the election, but the prosecutor’s office told him there was no merit to his complaint.
Dhopte, a project manager at Johnson and Johnson and a Rutgers University alumnus, has lived in Chesterfield for the past decade. He started his foray in community involvement five years ago by serving on Chesterfield’s Budget Advisory Committee. He also volunteers with his daughter’s basketball team.
Dhopte has annually headed up a local Guru Purnima festival, as well as Diwali celebrations, open to all, which are attended by the town’s mayor and deputy mayor.
“We should be given the opportunity to assimilate while retaining our Indian identity,” he said.
Dhopte said he ran on the belief that there should be diversity at the township level.
Burlington County Freeholder Balvinder Singh commented on Davis’s racist rant on his Facebook page. “As an immigrant myself and of Indian descent, I am heavily dismayed by this type of demeaning characterization purported by the former Republican Committeeman of Chesterfield.”
“I call on the Chesterfield and Burlington County Republican Leadership to denounce this abhorrent behavior of one of their own local leaders. This is the type of hatred and ignorance Trump has proliferated throughout our nation,” wrote Singh.
“Chesterfield residents overwhelmingly rejected the fear-mongering tactics of Republicans and elected Committeeman Shreekant Dhopte. Shree earned his seat on the committee, not because of his skin color, but because of the relentless door knocking efforts and meaningful conversations with voters,” wrote the Indian American politician.
Dhopte, along with Chesterfield committeewoman Andrea Katz, have also asked the local Republican party to denounce Davis’s statements.