Monmouth County Democratic insiders tell MMM that all Monmouth County and Legislative Republicans except Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and Mary Pat Angelini will essentially get a free pass to election this year as Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal has been unable to recruit candidates or raise money for the legislative races in legislative districts 12, 13 and 30, or the County Offices of Freeholder and Clerk.
Gopal is expected to leave the candidate recruitment in LDs 12 and 30 to the other counties included in those districts. The 30th district, currently represented in the Assembly by Republicans Dave Rible and Sean Kean, has 12 towns in Monmouth County and two in Ocean County. Seven of the fourteen towns in the 12th district are on Monmouth County. The other seven are split between Burlington, Ocean and Middlesex Counties. The 12th district is represented by Republicans Ron Dancer and Rob Clifton.
Gopal’s trial balloon last December of making a second run for Assembly in the 11th himself( he ran in 2011) went over like the Hindenburg with State Democrats, other County Chairs and Special Interest donors who he had convinced that the money they invested in Monmouth County last year would lead to a pick up of Freeholder seats.
Vin is now saying he doesn’t want to serve in the Assembly, but has his eye on Congressman Frank Pallone’s job should the congressman move up to take Senator Bob Menendez’s seat in the U.S. Senate or when Pallone retires. The 6th district is predominantly a Middlesex County district. Gopal’s calculus, we’re told by insiders, is that there will be enough Middlesex Dems competing for the rare congressional vacancy that he can win the nomination in a primary, when the time comes, by winning the overwhelming majority of Democratic votes in Monmouth where he controls the “party line” while ambitious Middlesex Dems split the majority votes in their county. But, if he is a two time loser for Assembly and keeps wasting donors’ money on losing races in Monmouth, Gopal might not even get another term as Chairman, the insiders said.
Vin has reportedly convinced Neptune Township Committeeman Eric Houghtaling that a race against Angelini and Casagrande is winnable and that he will have the resources (money from Trenton, Newark, Camden and Elizabeth) to compete. Several insiders say Houghtaling is running, but the IBEW Local 400 union leader has yet to confirm his candidacy.
Houghtaling is listed as the “Poltical Coordinator” of IBEW 400 on the union’s website. However the union seems to be hedging its bets, even if one of their own is a candidate this year. The union purchased a full page ad in the Monmouth GOP’s Lincoln Day Journal last month.
Vin is still trying to find a second Assembly candidate to run with Houghtaling in the 11th, two candidates to take on Assembly Members Amy Handlin and Declan O’Scanlon in the 13th, as well as Freeholder candidate for to take on incumbent Republican John Curley and and a Clerk candidate to challenge Christine Hanlon, Governor Christie’s nominee to replace the retiring M. Claire French.
The Democrats ‘Mini-Convention’ is scheduled for March 23, 6 p.m., at the IBEW Local 400 union hall in Wall Township. Gopal’s website says the convention will be “facilitated” by the Monmouth County Board of Elections. A Democratic employee of the Board of Elections told MMM this afternoon that no such arrangements have been made.