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Editor’s Note: After this story was published, McGreevey clarified that he was not issuing an endorsement, saying he was leaving politics in the rear view to focus on his work on prisoner re-entry programs. This story has been updated to reflect that clarification.
Add former Gov. Jim McGreevey to the list of Democrats eyeing State Sen. Vin Gopal as a future gubernatorial candidate.
“It’s important to identify the future generation of leaders and to provide them with opportunity, so I think there are a number of individuals, and Vin clearly is,” McGreevey said. “This is a suburban, largely-majority district, and Vin has been not only a thought leader, but he’s also provided political leadership.”
Despite his like for Gopal, McGreevey’s praise of the former Monmouth County Democratic chairman, did not constitute an endorsement.
Since leaving office in 2004, McGreevey has largely steered clear of politics, instead lending his focus to improving conditions for prisoner re-entry programs. Currently, he’s working to enact medically-assisted treatment programs for people with a history of drug addiction who have been incarcerated.
Gopal, a former Monmouth County Democratic Chairman, ousted State Sen. Jennifer Beck with a seven-point victory in 2017.
Only two years before that, his Assembly running mates, Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling won the district’s Assembly seats by less than a point each.
In 2013, Beck beat her Democratic challenger by 21 points.
The former governor isn’t the only Democrat to say Gopal would be a solid candidate for the state’s top executive post.
Democratic chairs from Somerset, Hudson, Essex and Union counties have said they’d like to see the rising star mount a gubernatorial bid after Gov. Phil Murphy leaves office.
Since Gopal’s victory, Democrats have made considerable strides in Monmouth, winning local seats in towns long held by Republicans.
Since 2015, Democrats have flipped 38 Republican-held seats in the county and lost only five held by Democrats, making headway in what was once a staunchly-red county.
“Today, I came back and the council president of Neptune City was a Democrat,” McGreevey said. “Oy gevalt, what happened?”