COLTS NECK – Democratic leader Vin Gopal of Long Branch formally kicked off his LD11 Senate campaign this evening in a private home here, raising $150,000 toward his effort to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Jennifer Beck in a battleground district.
“We have a Republican governor at 17 percent in the polls and the problem is Senator Beck didn’t distance herself from him but for one or two times,” Gopal told a packed room of backers. “She hasn’t said a word, for example, about the Bridgegate legal fees.”
Supporters at the event included Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19), Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-11), Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-11), Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, Brick Mayor John Ducey, and many others.
“Monmouth County is going to have a governor [Phil Murphy of Middletown], senator, and two assembly people,” Coughlin told the clapping crowd.
Gopal served as the Monmouth County Democratic chairman for half a decade, excelling at relationship building and fundraising. Houghtaling and Downey knocked off Beck’s two running mates in 2015. Now Gopal wants a crack at the top of the ticket.
Beck will be a tough out.
While the Republican brand may be weaker than in years past, President Donald J. Trump won Monmouth County by 30,000 votes last year. Beck, moreover, has a good reputation and has worked to build relationships on both sides of the aisle. There is also the possibility of Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno running at the top of the ticket. Guadagno is from Monmouth.
Issues could prove thorny for the Democrat. Beck opposed the gas tax hike, which Gopal tonight said he also would have opposed.
But Gopal – who has 15 years’ worth of party building connectivity statewide – plans to run hard, and tonight gave every indication that he will be a formidable and well-financed general election opponent.
It should be noted too that Democrat Hillary Clinton last year beat Trump in the district by 7,000 votes.