By Charles Sercombe
Perhaps the biggest buzz at Wednesday’s “Meet the Candidates Night” wasn’t who came off the best, but who wasn’t there.
Three out of the five Bengali candidates for City Council did not show up. Council candidate Abdul Algazali, a Yemeni-American who enjoyed wide Bengali community support in his bid to become mayor in 2009, also was a no-show.
According to several sources, including candidate Mohamed Delawar Hussain, there was a call for a boycott for all Bengali candidates to protest The Review’s participation in co-hosting the event.
Candidates Dilshad Chowdhury, Showkat Chowdhury and Abu Mahfuz did not appear, although Showkat Chowdhury appeared near the end of the event at 9 p.m. saying he had just got off work. He popped in for a few minutes and then left.
A few minutes later he was seen outside a mosque down the street from People’s Community Services, where the candidate forum was held. Algazali was also seen standing outside the mosque.
The specific reason for the boycott was not immediately known, but some sources said part of the reason had to do with The Review’s recent stories on whether Mahfuz is truly a resident of the city.
Bangladeshi-American voters have emerged in recent years as a major voting bloc in the city. This election is considered a pivotal one, which could confirm that the Bengali community can sway an election one way or another.
The August Primary Election could result in a sweep for Bengali candidates, in which case they would hold five out of the six seats on council.
Although the Bangladeshi-American community has proven itself as a political powerhouse in local elections, that doesn’t mean the community is in agreement on who to support.
There are deep divisions in the Bengali community. Some of their own sponsored candidate forums have fallen apart into shouting matches and fights before any of the candidates get a chance to speak.
There are 13 candidates vying for three seats on council in the Aug. 2 election. Councilmember Cathie Gordon is the only incumbent running for re-election.
Councilmembers Catrina Stackpoole and Shahab Ahmed decided against seeking another four-year term.
Out of the 13 candidates running in this election, the top six vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 8 General Election.
There is only one local election in this Primary election. The General Election will include a vote on three seats on the School Board.