Progressive PAC That Backed Bernie Sanders Announces NJ Endorsements

Vin Gopal. Max Pizarro for Observer

Democracy for America, a national PAC that backed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race, on Friday released a series of endorsements of New Jersey Democrats, some of them in competitive races.

The PAC, founded by Howard Dean, is supporting three Democrats in one of the few competitive districts this year in Monmouth County.

Vin Gopal, the former chairman of the Monmouth County Democratic Organization, is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck. And two Democratic incumbents, Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, are in close re-election races.

Democracy for America also endorsed Assemblyman Troy Singleton, a Democrat who is running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington). In the same district, Assemblyman Herb Conaway, who is running for re-election, and Carol Murphy, who is seeking to take over Singleton’s Assembly seat, also got the DFA nod.

All 120 state legislative seats will be on the ballot in November. The PAC is chaired by Howard Dean’s brother, Jim Dean, and its members contributed $1.8 million to Sanders’s presidential campaign last year.

“The elections in New Jersey this year are an exciting opportunity to build more progressive power in the state,” Jim Dean said in a statement. “Some of these candidates have earned the respect of their constituents through a strong record of standing up for working families and against corporate power. Others are answering Bernie Sanders’ call by running for office for the first time, using a progressive platform to take on the establishment in both parties.”

Gopal has raised significantly more money than Beck, but the district leans Republican and she is a well-known senator who is often knocking on doors and championing local causes such as school funding reform in the Legislature. Gopal said he was “honored to receive their endorsement.”

“DFA stands for progressive principles such as pay equity, fighting for women’s health care funding, supporting marriage equality, supporting small businesses and fighting for our middle class,” he said.

Democracy for America broke from New Jersey’s Democratic Party in one district centered around New Brunswick. It endorsed a slate challenging Sen. Bob Smith and his running mates, Assemblymen Joe Egan and Joseph Danielsen (all D-Middlesex).

The DFA endorsement in that district went to William Irwin for state Senate and Heather Fenyk and Ralph Johnson for Assembly. The endorsement may help them, but Smith and his ticket will have the county line and the party’s organizational support, which counts for a lot in New Jersey and is often decisive in the primaries, which are scheduled for June 6.