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State Sen. Vin Gopal. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Anti-Golden bill pulled from Senate schedule

Gopal says public testimony from yesterday’s hearings needs to be reviewed

By Joey Fox, May 19 2023 11:41 am

A bill targeting Shaun Golden’s dual role as Monmouth County Sheriff and Monmouth GOP chairman has been pulled from next week’s Senate voting schedule, with no clear timeline for if and when it might be revived.

The bill – which bars county clerks, sheriffs, and surrogates from serving as party chairs, a prohibition which would only apply to Golden at the moment – just passed two legislative committees yesterday after marathon committee hearings, and it was scheduled for a full Senate vote next Monday. But State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), the bill’s Senate sponsor, said there are things that need to be reviewed.

“I still believe the merits of the bill are good, but a lot of public testimony happened yesterday,” he said. “We need to review that testimony and do our due diligence.”

When asked about the bill yesterday, Gopal defended it as a necessary step to ensure that county clerks and sheriffs can’t abuse their powers over county election administrators and law enforcement officers. Regardless of its effects on any one person, Gopal said, the bill is good public policy.

But Golden and his allies protested that whatever its supposed motivations, the bill’s only target was Golden himself, who as the leader of the Monmouth Republicans is Gopal’s political nemesis.

“This bill is a retaliatory attempt by Senator Gopal to punish me directly,” Golden said in the Assembly Judiciary Committee yesterday. “This is my freedom of association under attack. This is my freedom of speech.”

Both the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees approved the bill on party-line votes, with every Republican voting their strong objections. Republicans would likely push back on the bill further if it is revived at some point, though Gopal said yesterday that one Republican, State Sen. Ed Durr (R-Logan), indicated he would support the bill.

Tom Szymanski, the executive director of the state GOP (and a resident of Monmouth County), applauded the decision to pull the bill and said Republicans would continue to fight against it if it comes up again.

“I’m pleased to see legislators realizing this bill is both unconstitutional and blatant political retaliation against Sheriff Golden for blowing the whistle on Senator Gopal’s dark money political slush fund,” Szymanski said. “This a victory for democracy and the First Amendment, but we will keep the pressure on until this power-abusing bill is dead and buried.”

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