By John Burton |
TINTON FALLS —With the election behind him, it hasn’t been any less busy for state Senator-elect Vin Gopal as he prepares to take office early next month among the 40 senators in Trenton.
“This is a whole new world view,” said Gopal, the 32-year-old Long Branch resident and newly -elected Democrat.
Speaking from his office on Apple Street, where he runs his marketing and publishing businesses, Gopal offered his objectives for when he begins his term.
Almost immediately following his Nov. 7 victory, Gopal contacted groups and influential individuals who may not have been supportive of his campaign to let them know he is open to dialogue with them and anyone in his district. He also met with board of education members, municipal administrators and elected officials, business owners and others. “Just introducing myself and to let them know I want to work with them,” said Gopal.
“The election’s over,” he offered with broad smile. “Now we have to govern.”
This is the first time Gopal has held elected office. He’s been active in politics for a number of years, including an unsuccessful run for state Assembly in 2011, as well as serving as the Democratic county organization’s chairman. He noted he is the only newly-elected member of the Senate without prior legislative experience. He believes he has his work cut out for him to keep pace and to get acclimated while working to put forth his agenda.
Among the things on his to-do list are reinvigorating the Urban Enterprise Zone program, which looks to stimulate the economies of struggling communities – and which languished under the Christie administration. “We’re going to make this a stronger program,” he said. He said he will be working with the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) as it continues in its mission to redevelop the former military installation and stimulate the area’s economy. And he will be looking at ways to assist the financially struggling Monmouth Park thoroughbred racetrack in Oceanport – including supporting sports betting, should the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rule in New Jersey’s favor and allow the state to institute it.
When he arrives in Trenton, upon his swearing-in on Jan. 9, a priority will be to challenge what Gopal calls, “New Jersey’s unhealthy addiction to home rule.” He is hoping to bring about a consolidation of municipalities and public school districts to trim governmental bloat and save taxpayer money.
“I want to see legislation done in a thoughtful way,” Gopal said.
And that could even mean taking on his own party leadership. Gopal is “deeply opposed” to the $15 an hour minimum wage advocated for by then-candidate Phil Murphy and the Democratic leaders in both legislative chambers. Gopal said he believes it could hurt small mom-and-pop businesses. The reality is that it’ll move forward, given the support among Democrats, but he will work to “make sure there’s exceptions” for the most vulnerable small businesses.
Gopal would also like to put the brakes on any tax increases—even the “millionaires’ tax”— “until I see where we can cut,” he said.
Gopal won a hard-fought election against Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck, surprising many by beating the popular moderate Republican. The district does favor Democrats given the voter rolls. But Gopal stressed he couldn’t win on just Democratic votes, needing the support of independents to secure a victory.
And now he’s hoping to continue to earn their support as he moves to governance and realizes his own dream come true in holding elected office.
“The ultimate goal,” Gopal said, “is to move political policy, and elected office is where you do that.”
This article was first published in the Dec. 21-28, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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