Monmouth County Commissioner Tom Arnon, one of the county’s most popular vote-getters, has decided not to challenge state Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) next year, leaving Republicans without a candidate at the top of their wish list for the state’s most competitive legislative districts.

“I’m not going to run,” Arnon told the New Jersey Globe. “I love my work as a commissioner. We’re doing great things in Monmouth County, and I think we matter.”

A former mayor of Neptune, Arnone was re-elected to a fifth term as county commissioner in November by a landslide, beating Democrat Crystal Diaz by 38,288 votes.

Arnone admitted that he was very careful about Gopalu’s challenge.

“I thought about it,” he said. “But we do it all here in Monmouth County.”

Gopal, a former Monmouth County Democratic Party chair, ran for the 11th District Senate seat from three-term incumbent Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) in 2017 with 4,158 votes, 43.6% to 46.4% . He was re-elected to a second term last year by 2,682 votes, 42%-48%, against political newcomer Laura Annetta. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy lost the 11th by more than 5,000 votes.

While Gopal held on, Republicans flipped two Assembly seats in the 11th District, with Marilyn Piperna (R-Colts Neck) and Kim Yuhner (R-Shrewsbury) narrowly edging out a pair of three-term Assembly candidates, Eric Hotalinga ( D-Neptune) and Joan Downey (D-Freehold).

Piperna and Uhlner are potential GOP Senate candidates against Gopal.

Legislative redistricting made the 11th district only slightly better for Democrats, but it remains one of the state’s most winnable for Republicans.

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