POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

District 11 Senate contest is this year’s most contentious race

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

Volunteers spent their Monday making calls to solicit support for Vin Gopal for state Senate.

It’s being billed as the premiere race in this year’s legislative election and it’s coming down to the blood and sweat put out by each campaign.

“We’re working very hard, we’re taking nothing for granted. We’ve got hundreds of volunteers each and every day out of five campaign locations. We’ve got people making phone calls, knocking on doors, really educating their neighbors. I’m out there. I’ve hit about 6,300 doors myself,” said Gopal.

Former Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal is looking to unseat longtime Republican incumbent Jen Beck. It’s a battleground district that leans right, though it’s unaffiliated, and Democratic registered voters outweigh Republicans about three to one. Gopal was instrumental in flipping both legislative seats blue two years ago, which is an upset he’s hoping to repeat.

“We released a letter last week of 100 registered Republicans, many of them elected officials, who are crossing over to support our campaign, so we’re uniting Republicans, Democrats and Independents that are tired of high property taxes and tired of cuts on women’s health care,” said Gopal.

“My district voted in double digits for President Obama both times and then voted in double digits for Gov. Christie both times, so it really is a truly independent district. These are swing voters that judge you based on your performance and work, and if you aren’t working hard for them they aren’t going to keep you,” said Beck.

Beck has held the 11th District Senate seat for nearly a decade. She’s got the task of surmounting a fractured national GOP brand, and a Republican governor with historically low approval ratings. While her opponent is well-funded and well-supported by his party, it’s an issue she’s put at the center of the campaign.

“There’s been a lot of money spent. The Camden County machine has put about $2.4 million in against me and I’ve raised and spent about $300,000. So we’re being outspent ten to one, but they have not outworked us and we have been out hitting doors since March of this year. As of last weekend, we had hit 10,113 doors,” said Beck.

According to New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, the candidates aren’t too far off with personal fundraising. Beck’s campaign raised about $433,000 to Gopal’s nearly $600,000. Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray points out Gopal’s campaign may not be benefiting from all the resources most pundits originally expected.

“There’s not as much money coming in as there might have been in terms of the independent expenditures because of a lot of this money flowing to a race down in the 3rd District with Senate President Steve Sweeney,” said Murray.

Still, he adds, they’ll have to separate themselves from being establishment candidates. And their campaigns have some striking similarities — both are business owners and both platforms have focused on fiscally conservative ideas like fixes for property taxes and the school funding formula.

The final days will be a full-court press for these candidates. Pundits are refraining from trying to call this race. It will come down to each door, each phone call and every vote.