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State Sen. Vin Gopal at his 2023 campaign kickoff in Freehold. (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

Gopal officially launches State Senate re-election campaign

Republicans sure to heavily target Gopal in top swing district

By Joey Fox, January 09 2023 8:15 pm

State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) formally launched his re-election campaign to the Monmouth County-based 11th legislative district this evening, kicking off an intense ten-month campaign for what may be New Jersey’s premier legislative race of 2023.

“Know that I will never, ever forget you standing with me,” Gopal told a crowd of more than 800 supporters in Freehold. “Together, we’re going to continue to do incredible things for Monmouth County.”

In attendance at the event were a number of the state’s top Democrats, among them Gov. Phil Murphy, state Democratic chairman LeRoy Jones, Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Linden), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), former Gov. Jim McGreevey, and a large number of other Democratic officials. The event also drew some pro-Gopal Republicans, including former U.S. Senate and gubernatorial nominee Doug Forrester as well as a number of local officials.

Notably, the heads of three major police and firefighters’ unions – the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the State Troopers Fraternal Association, and the Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association – spoke at the event, a clear sign that Gopal will have the early and strong backing of their unions.

“Vin Gopal gets things done,” STFA President Wayne Blanchard said. “He’s an advocate for law enforcement, for the homeless, and for education for everyone …That’s why the State Troopers Fraternal Association will be behind [him].”

Gopal was first elected to the Senate in 2017, defeating State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) two years after he had led the successful campaign to oust the 11th district’s two Republican assemblymembers.

In 2021, the two Democrats who Gopal had helped elect, Assemblymembers Joann Downey (D-Freehold) and Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune), both unexpectedly lost re-election amid Murphy’s unexpectedly close gubernatorial race. Murphy lost the 11th district, but Gopal still won by four points.

Republicans are hoping to finish the job and beat Gopal this year, but a clear candidate to do so has not yet emerged. Five Democrats, meanwhile, are aiming to retake the district’s two Assembly seats, among them Houghtaling, Ocean Township Councilwoman Margie Donlon, and former Garden State Equality board chair Luanne Peterpaul.

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