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

Gopal has early cash lead in 11th district race

State senator has nearly $400k, while Republican assemblymembers have less than $50k

By Joey Fox, January 25 2023 11:43 am

State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) has built up a big warchest in the 11th district, far outstripping his district’s two Republican assemblymembers ahead of what will likely be one of New Jersey’s most competitive legislative elections this year.

Gopal ended 2022 with $390,157 on-hand, even after spending more than $250,000 in the 4th quarter. Assemblywomen Marilyn Piperno (R-Colts Neck) and Kim Eulner (R-Shrewsbury), meanwhile, had just $49,684 on-hand spread across their two individual campaign accounts as well as a joint fundraising committee.

Republicans have not yet settled on a candidate to face Gopal; Piperno and Eulner are both possibilities, among other Monmouth Republicans. The top two prospective Republican recruits, County Commissioner Tom Arnone and County Clerk Christine Hanlon, both passed on campaigns.

One potential Senate candidate, political newcomer Sara Haleva, is openly considering a run, but she’s said she’ll only continue her campaign if she gets backing from Monmouth Republicans. Gopal’s 2021 foe, Lori Annetta, has also filed a Senate candidacy with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, but she hasn’t reported raising any money and it’s not clear if she actually intends to run again.

Five Democrats are running for the Assembly, including Ocean Township Councilwoman Margie Donlon and former municipal judge Luanne Peterpaul – the two apparent frontrunners for the nomination – as well as former Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune).

Gopal was first elected in 2017, flipping a Republican-held seat that covers most of Monmouth County’s Democratic-leaning towns. But while he was narrowly re-elected in 2021, his two Assembly running mates lost to Piperno and Eulner, who had raised little money but were buoyed by Jack Ciattarelli’s strong gubernatorial showing.

The 11th district is widely regarded as a top priority for both parties this year, and outside groups are sure to dump in plenty of money to supplement candidate spending. That somewhat reduces the need for 11th district candidates to build up huge warchests of their own – but Gopal’s early lead still puts him in a strong position to begin the cycle.

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