Flyers labelling a Sikh mayoral candidate in a New Jersey city as a terrorist were spotted on car windscreens on Friday, just days before the November 7 election. The flyer says in a large red font over Ravinder Bhalla’s picture: “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our Town!”

Bhalla, a lawyer, was the council president for the city of Hoboken in 2011-’12, and is now a Councilman-at-Large.

“There’s been an undercurrent of racism I’ve seen in this campaign,” Bhalla told New York Daily News. “That sort of whispering campaign has come to the surface now, where people have the audacity to send a flyer like that.” He said his daughter asked why people were attacking him because he wears a turban. “That’s a hard question to answer to a little girl,” Bhalla was quoted as saying.

On Twitter, he wrote it was troubling, but “we won’t let hate win”.

“I want to use [the] incident to affirm the value of living in a diverse community where we’re judged by content of character, not by colour of skin or how we worship,” he said in a series of tweets. “At time w/ [with] President [Donald Trump] seeking to divide us, it is critical we come together as a community and stand up for American values.”

Election rival Michael DeFusco, who was initially linked to the flyer, called it “racist, “disgusting and gutter politics at its worst”. He said he had asked the police to investigate into the matter.

DeFusco had recently filed a complaint accusing Bhalla of conflict of interest. The allegation appears on Friday’s flyers as well.