One of New Jersey’s most ambitious political talents intends to run for a State Senate seat, according to a source close to the likely candidate. Monmouth County Democratic chairman Vin Gopal, who has led his organization to some of the state’s most startling upset victories in recent years, will likely pursue a senate bid this year’s legislative elections.
Speaking by email, the source said that Gopal has already been in talks with Democratic leadership to compete against Republican incumbent Jennifer Beck for the seat in Central Jersey’s 11th district, one of the state’s few partisan battlegrounds.
“Gopal has had sitdowns in recent weeks with South Jersey Powerbroker George Norcross, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Gubernatorial Frontrunner & Monmouth County resident, Ambassador Phil Murphy to discuss the viability of a senate run,” the source wrote.
“Ocean Township Mayor Chris Siciliano, a Democrat and close Gopal ally, is also seriously considering running if Gopal does not run.”
Gopal will resign as chairman if he does go forward with the campaign.
Though Gopal 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.