LD11 Senate Challenger Vin Gopal: The InsiderNJ Interview


Jittery internal attitudes in the Democratic Party about brand projection in suburban areas this season haven’t infected the apparatus – or public behavior – of Team Gopal, insists the candidate defining that cause in LD11, who sees right now the apotheosis of a nearly 15-year relationship and party-building effort.

“I feel good,” Democratic candidate Vin Gopal, a businessman and former Monmouth County Democratic Committee chairman, told InsiderNJ a day after The Asbury Park Press backed the Republican incumbent, state Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11).

“She got The Press endorsement, just as the Republicans did in 2015, when [Assemblywoman] Caroline [Casagrande] and [Assemblywoman] Mary Pat [Angelini] lost,” said Gopal. “The endorsement of her has more to do with how much they hate [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Phil Murphy.”

As he darted from door to door and event to event, the candidate said this election in LD11 is about new leadership for a district long disconnected as a consequence of Beck’s obedience to Christie overlord politics. Gopal said his campaign effort will outspend the incumbent 4-1 on television alone in the seven-day run down to Election Day next Tuesday.

It’s a routine theme.

Gopal consistently hounds Beck on the Christie connection, and says that’s the single area where she most missed her chance to give the district independent leadership. “She could have backed any other candidate for president and she chose to be a co-chair of Chris Christie’s campaign,” said Gopal. “Eight years ago, Jen Beck said ‘give us Chris Christie and we’re going to see real change.’ That hasn’t happened.”

Asked to identify what the campaign is about and why he wants to be senator, Gopal said he met a 93-year old woman who lives on $800 dollars a month. Her rent is $750. “She comes up to me in Ocean Twp. and tells me she’s terrified of losing her food stamps,” said Gopal. “Those are the types of people who are not seeing anything in terms of real change – and that goes for failed policies in both parties.”

But the Democratic Party brand looks weak, InsiderNJ noted; or at the very least, its armor-plating reflects little public interest if one is to measure its already beefed-up statehouse presence. “Democrats have had the majority in Trenton,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) pointed out to InsiderNJ earlier this week by way of amplifying the argument. “What I’ve noticed about this election is both sides are more reluctant than ever to identify as Democrat or Republican. But how is that Democrats are going to offer independence or new ideas when they’ve been the party in power in the Legislature for years?”

And when and if Murphy beats Republican Kim Guadagno for Governor.

Why should voters believe that enhancing what is now a 24-16 senate majority for Democrats by one vote amount to anything other than giving a shark another set of teeth?

“It’s about the individual, not the party,” Gopal said. “Throughout my tenure no one can say I’ve been anything but independent.” When the party establishment jeered at 2013 gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono, Gopal stood with her, and she acknowledged as much in her concession speech, even as she called out whole swaths of Democratic Party leadership that insisted – mostly for self-protection – on standing with the soon-to-be Bridgegate toppled Christie.

Finally, Gopal said, he is confident in his work rate. He said he’s hit 6,300 doors, part of an effort by his ticket to pound on 12,000 doors overall, and even in the closing days, “I’m working hard to raise money,” he said. The district contains 14,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans on paper, and Gopal said LD11 is “tired of eight years of Chris Christie.”

The Murphy Campaign sent out a release this week providing the press with details about the gubernatorial candidate’s Election Night plans. He will be in Asbury Park. “He wants to be in his home county, and I think it’s wonderful,” said Gopal, who refused to read anything more into the victory celebration destination, and said he has his head down on the senate race with seven days remaining in the battleground contest.

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