JERSEY CITY, N.J. (Diya TV) Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla has officially thrown his hat into the ring for the Eighth District’s House seat, challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez. However, this announcement is not without controversy, as Menendez accuses Bhalla of breaking campaign finance rules. Bhalla’s camp vehemently denies these claims.

Menendez wasted no time going on the offensive, questioning Bhalla’s commitment to transparency. “I look forward to Mayor Bhalla explaining why his first act as a candidate was to skirt federal campaign finance laws,” Menendez asserted in a statement shortly after Bhalla’s candidacy became official.

As of now, Bhalla has not filed any campaign finance reports with the FEC, despite claiming to have raised $509,000 last month. In contrast, Menendez’s 3rd quarter FEC report reveals $433,244.25 in cash on hand.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) remains cautious, stating they cannot comment on specific activities related to candidates. The FEC allows federal candidates to “test the waters,” but a $5,000 threshold exists, triggering registration and reporting requirements if exceeded.

Bhalla’s exploratory committee, according to spokesman Rob Horowitz, insists they have adhered to all campaign finance regulations. “The Bhalla for Congress Exploratory Committee has followed all the applicable rules. All of our fundraising has adhered to the federal campaign limits and will be reported on schedule.”

The political landscape intensifies as Hoboken’s mayor enters the race, with Menendez securing endorsements from the Hudson County Democratic Organization and local mayors. Notably absent from Menendez’s supporters is Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who refrains from backing Menendez due to federal charges against the senator. Fulop, however, has not indicated support for Bhalla or any other challenger.

Despite the controversy, Bhalla’s announcement emphasizes key issues such as environmental concerns, reproductive rights, and healthcare. Bhalla pledges to bring change to the district, stating, “This moment requires change that is momentous. I believe that healthcare is a human right. Housing is a human right. Reproductive rights are human rights.”

As the race unfolds, it remains to be seen how the allegations against Bhalla and Menendez’s aggressive early stance will influence the Democratic primary for the overwhelmingly Democratic Eighth District.