Gopal, Doherty and Nelson make Gannett’s ‘Other” List
In addition to the list of twelve ‘rising stars’ that Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande made on Sunday, Gannett published a list of 15 ‘up and comers’ to keep an eye on that includes three Monmouth players.
Democrats Vin Gopal, the 27 year old county chairman and Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, 39 made the list. Noticeably absent among Democrats were Marlboro Mayor Jonathon Hornik and Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long.
Gopal, from West Long Branch, ran for Assembly in the 11th District in 2011 before being elected county chairman in 2012. It remains to be seen if the Monmouth Democratic party will become more competitive under Gopal’s leadership, but there is no question that he is developing a statewide portfolio of influence with his early support of Barbara Buono for the 2013 gubernatorial nomination, his non-stop fundraising schedule for candidates statewide and savvy media presence. Gopal has ties to both Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Congressman Frank Pallone. How he navigates the anticipated 2014 battle between Booker and Pallone for the U.S. Senate nomination will be fascinating to watch. MMM predicts that he will be seen as a supporter of the winner and an ally of the loser.
Doherty made national news for his leadership following Superstorm Sandy. His bold and fast action in putting Belmar’s boardwalk reconstruction out to bid resulted in a winning bid that came in an amazing 70% under the anticipated cost. Doherty’s first run for public office was in 2005 when he ran for Assembly in the old 11th District, giving incumbent Republicans Steve Corodemus and Sean Kean a scare thanks to lots of Corzine money. The redistricting of the state legislative and congressional maps after the 2010 U.S. Census were not kind to Doherty’s ambitions. On the state level, Belmar was moved from the nominally competitive 11th district where he came close to winning in 2005, to the solidly Republican 30th district. On the congressional level, Belmar was moved from Pallone’s 6th district to the solidly Republican 4th district currently represented by Congressman Chris Smith. Look for Doherty to either move, or wait and hope for kinder electoral maps after the 2020 census before seeking higher office.
The time to ‘keep an eye on’ Brian Nelson, the only Monmouth County Republican to join Casagrande on Gannett’s list, was 16 years ago when, as a 19 year old college student, he came within 400 votes of defeating Linda Greenstein for a seat on the Plainsboro (Mercer County) Township Committee. Greenstein is now a NJ State Senator. Nelson has been on the fast track at least since he graduated from college a year early, magna cum laude. While earning his undergraduate degree early he managed to intern in Congressman Michael Pappas Flemington District Office, a two hour drive from his alma matter, Richard Stockton College. At 35, he is a partner in one of the top 5 New Jersey law firms and one of the largest 200 law firms nationally. Nelson is already a ‘power player’ on the state level and well respected in Republican circles nationally.
Nelson and Casagrande were classmates at Rutgers-Camden Law School and have remained good friends since they graduated in 2002.
More musings on Monmouth’s rising stars, those not yet recognized by Gannett, coming soon.