Candidate for N.J. State Senate “working hard” to flip district, endorsed by leading Democrat, teachers union

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Indian-American candidate for New Jersey State Senate Vin Gopal,talking to constituents while on the campaign trail. (Photo: Facebook)

Congresswoman Grace Meng, D-NY, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, endorsed Vin Gopal, the Indian-American candidate for New Jersey State Senate July 7. If Gopal succeeds in flipping the 11th District seat held since 2012 by Republican incumbent Jennifer Beck this November 7, he would become the first Indian-American State Senator in New Jersey’s history.

Gopal served for four years as the chair of the Monmouth County Democratic Party, a perch from where he is credited with engineering several electoral victories  to mayoral, city councils and the state assembly. In an interview over the weekend with Desi Talk, Gopal said his campaign has raised $600,000 so far out of a target of $2 million he estimated earlier was needed to win the race. “I have personally knocked on 3,500 doors and have another 300 volunteers” doing the same. “I am working hard to unseat a long-time incumbent,” Gopal acknowledged.

“Within the next two weeks I am hoping to release the names of 100 Republicans who are crossing over to support me,” he said.

On July 7, the American Federation of Teachers, New Jersey chapter also endorsed Gopal. The teachers union represents about 30,000 education workers across New Jersey. This July 29 and 30, Gopal, along with the rest of the District 11 Democratic slate will hold the first “Weekend of Action,” knocking on doors in the 11th District.

“I am proud to endorse Phil Murphy, Christine Lui Chen and Vin Gopal,” said Meng. “All are exceptional candidates who will fight tirelessly for New Jersey’s hard-working middle-class families,” Rep. Meng said in a press release. “I look forward to working with each of them to strengthen our economy, create jobs and ensure equal pay and affordable health care for all.” Gopal has held rallies with other candidates running for office, including mots recently in Asbury Park, N.J., Democratic gubernatorial favorite Phil Murphy. New Jersey’s only Indian-American State Assemblyman Raj Mukherjee has also actively campaigned for Gopal.

Gopal was unopposed in the June 6 primary, receiving the Democratic Party’s nod for the state’s 11th district.

“So honored to have Congresswoman Meng’s support,” he said. “The Congresswoman is one of the highest ranking women in our party and in Congress so her recognition of this very important race here in Monmouth County speaks volumes about our candidacy and how important it is to remove one of Chris Christie’s closest allies from the State Legislature.”

Gopal formally announced his run for the New Jersey state Senate Feb. 22.

In an earlier interview soon after announcing his run, Gopal told News India Times there was a lot of excitement in the Indian-American community about his candidacy, saying, “Indian retailers, pharmacists and other organizations have come out in support. So have some hoteliers, physicians, business owners. attorneys.”

However, his district does not have many residents of Indian descent and he hopes his community will come forward to help his campaign in coming weeks. Of his 300 volunteers, some 15 or so are Indian-American, he said.

The 11th District is made up of  most of southern Monmouth County and leans Republican. In 2011, Gopal lost the race for the state assembly from the 11th District. But he puts hope in the rising unpopularity of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, he told Desi Talk.

A lifelong Monmouth County resident, Gopal was born in Neptune Township and raised in Freehold, N.J. He owns a small business with 14 employees. Among his priorities, Gopal said, was to get rid of the ‘crushing’ red tape on small businesses in the state and bringing down property taxes.

Gopal previously served on the Board of Directors for the Monmouth County Chamber of Commerce where he chaired the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee. He is a past president of the Hazlet Township Business Owners Association and a past Board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth County.

He has served as a volunteer EMT for the Colts Neck and Freehold First Aid Squads and volunteers with the Long Branch Fire Department. Gopal is also the founder and president of a non-profit dedicated to helping Monmouth County charities and individuals in need.