By Ela Dutt
New Jersey: Vin Gopal, 30, chair of the Monmouth County Democratic Party, went into politics as a hobby, but it is proving to be an expensive and time consuming one for the youngest and only Indian-American to lead a county party in the state of New Jersey.
Busy organizing a string of meetings to get fellow Democrats elected to local and county office, come the June 14 elections, Gopal took time off his busy schedule to talk to reporters about the current state of Indian-Americans in politics and his future plans.
This will be Gopal’s third two-year term as chair of the county party, and he has no opposition. His predecessor held his position for 25 years. But Gopal is in a hurry and isn’t going to sit in this chair for long, maybe two more years, he indicated.
“Right now I’m focused on electing county and local candidates,” he told reporters. His dedication to that task is what got him elected in a county with very few Indian-Americans unlike some others like Middlesex or Somerset. Gopal was elected by 916 local Democratic Party committees in Monmouth County which is the seat of 20 Democratic Mayors, 126 Councilors, 2 state Assembly members, and 1 Democratic Congressman.
This March 12, Gopal caught some headlines for bringing the five 2017 Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls for the first time face to face, in “Gopal’s convention” as Politickernj described it. The young Indian-American politico is positioning himself as a pivotal player in the 2017 Democratic nomination process for the gubernatorial race, a year in which he hopes a Democrat will succeed Republican Gov Chris Christie.
US Rep Frank Pallone who attended the convention used Gopal as an example of the diversity of the Democratic Party. Attacking Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump for comments disparaging some Muslims and Hispanics, Pallone noted by contrast, “the presence of a county party chairman – Gopal – who happens to be a Hindu,” it was reported.
“Everyone loved Gopal today as that purveyor of party in a longtime typically Republican county where Dems, by virtue of demonstrable chairman-channeling energy, sense opportunity,” a news report said.
Politics, Gopal told, has proven to be, “a very expensive and very time-consuming hobby.” But the personable young man who started a marketing company when he was 22 and has some big-name clients, adds, “I enjoy this now but hopefully in the future I want to run for state legislature or the US Congress.”
He likes to think his proven work ethic and record of bringing people together will stand him in good stead.
Speculation began about his future upward trajectory back in 2015 when Politickernj.com describing Gopal as “one of the most talented up and comers in New Jersey politics” was poised to run against state Sen. Jen Beck in 2017.
He says he was attracted to the Democratic Party not just because he considers it more fiscally responsible, “But also because I found them more welcoming and open to racial,” and religious diversity. He is a Hindu he pointed out, in a Christian-majority County.
Indian-Americans at this juncture he says are doing great on the national scene. Two (now one) Governors, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and now former Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal; a US Senator in the making (Kamala Harris of California), a front-runner like Judge Sri Srinivasan who was considered by President Obama for the Supreme Court, and a growing number of legislators, he ticks off one by one. “New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji is likely to become the next Mayor of Jersey City,” Gopal predicts.
“There’s a larger and growing number of Indian-Americans entering politics, and the workforce – as attorneys, police officers and not just in science and medicine,” Gopal says. “We’re going to see more of them as the children choose politics even if their parents are still more interested in other professions,” he adds. Each year, of the 30 or so interns employed at his County’s Democratic Party offices, at least 3 to 5 are of Indian or South Asian origin, he said.
The son of physicians, Gopal was born and raised in Freehold, N.J., and says “I do it (politics) because I like helping, and I enjoy dealing with issues like taxes, roads, growing the economy,” he said.
(The article was first published in newsindiatimes.com)