Vin Gopal seeks community support in effort to win NJ Senate seat

Vin Gopal, 31, who has been described as “a dynamic Democrat in a Republican Combat Zone” while announcing his candidacy for the New Jersey state Senate has sought Indian American community to support him in his efforts to win the senate seat.

Gopal, a rising star in the New Jersey Democratic Party was among those in the list of ‘40 Under 40’ by NJPolitico. Gopal, a small business owner will be facing off against Republican incumbent Jennifer Beck, 49, who was elected to the Senate ten years ago and has since won with resounding victories, including after the 2011 redistricting. Gopal hopes support from the Indian-American community around the state will bolster his chances.

“I hope Indian-Americans will get excited about my race,” Gopal told Desi Talk. According to his math and that of another Democratic source who did not wish to be named, Gopal’s chances are good despite a secure incumbent Republican (Beck won her last election with 60 percent of the vote). “Hillary Clinton won by 8,000 votes,” in the presidential race Nov. 8 Gopal says. Also, Gopal is credited with securing a victory against considerable odds in 2015, for the two current incumbent Democratic Assembly members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey in a Republican district, who will be running for re-election this November. “Also, there are South Asians who live in Freehold and Ocean Townships who could help,” Gopal said.

According to 2010 U.S. Census figures, District 11 has a population of 205, 526, of which more than 79 percent are of voting age. Unlike some other parts of New Jersey where Indian-Americans or Asian-Americans make up a sizable part of the population, District 11 is 76 percent White and barely 2.74 percent Asian. Blacks make up a little over 14 percent. While racial or ethnic breakdown of the population may have changed since 2010, Gopal will need outside help for what is expected to be a $2 million dollar campaign all-told for the three Democrats. An extra Democrat on the state Senate would be a definite plus for liberals.

“Indian-Americans and South Asians outside the district could also be a help,” said Gopal, a small-business owner, founder of the communications company Direct Development in Hazlet, N.J., which has 14 employees. In his statement announcing the candidacy, Gopal said he has gone without taking a paycheck in order to make the payroll.

Born and brought up in Monmouth County, Gopal says he has felt the impact of Trenton’s “over-regulation, suffocating taxation, and red-tape.” In his statement he lashed out at his GOP opponent and in so many words described Beck as an opportunist, a “lobbyist and professional politician” and Gov. Chris Christie’s “foot soldier,” who has  backed down on gun regulations, women’s access to healthcare and marriage equality, and has lost touch with her constituents, all of which he hopes to  overturn if sent to the state Senate which currently has a Democratic majority (24 of the 40 seats.)

Monmouth County Democratic chairman Vin Gopal, who has led his organization to some of the state’s most startling upset victories in recent years, saw disappointing returns for his Democratic county slate during this year’s presidential election, Democratic State Assembly members Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling pulled off the most surprising victory of 2015’s sleepy Assembly elections when they unseated Republicans Caroline Casagrande and Marypat Angelini.

Beck has announced her intention to run for reelection, and has endorsed Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon’s State Senate bid in the neighboring 13th district. According to polling from the Monmouth County Democrats, Hillary Clinton won the 11th district’s presidential votes by roughly 7,000. Whether Gopal and the Democrats can drive that same turnout in a quieter gubernatorial year remains to be seen.

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