NJ race for U.S. Senate heats up

TRENTON, N.J. - October 23, 2012

Incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez is trying to beat back the challenge of Republican state lawmaker Joe Kyrillos.

"I'm exactly what this country needs and i know I'm what this state needs," says State Senator Joe Kyrillos.


Republican State Senator Joe Kyrillos is a 24-year legislator from Monmouth County and former GOP state chairman.

He is challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Robert Menendez of Hudson County, who was appointed to the Senate in 2006 talking over Jon Corzine's seat when he became governor.

"I'm running against a guy pursuing what I consider a Jon Corzine economic strategy. It's crushing the country with debt, more spending, higher taxes," said Senator Kyrillos.

"I've worked to make life better on creating jobs and educational opportunities, college assistance, keeping loan rates low, meeting health care challenges of our families," says Senator Robert Menendez. "When my opponent has nothing to say about these issues that will strike a responsive chord with the electorate, he goes negative."

A mayor, state legislator and congressman before going to the senate, Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, says he has been bringing home the bacon.

"We're fighting for the middle class. We're fighting for them on tax breaks for middle income families. $3,500 the average NJ family now gets is a result of the tax laws I was able to passm," said Senator Menendez.

Kyrillos has been a leader on issues like shore protection and education reform. A moderate Republican, unlike some others in his party he supports a hike in the minimum wage and doesn't rule out tax hikes for the wealthy.

"We say things a little different sometimes, but I think we pretty much think the same," said Senator Kyrillos.

Kyrillos has been campaigning with his close friend Gov. Chris Christie.

"I just hope the effect it has is that you guys show up and if you show up and people are able to hear him he is going to win," said Governor Christie.

Kyrillos has his work cut out for him, Menendez has more money and a double digit lead in the polls; and New Jersey hasn't elected a Republican U.S. Senator since Nixon was president.

Senator Menendez hopes to keep it that way, arguing he has earned a second full term.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.