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New Jersey U.S. Senate Candidates Debate Economy, Health Care

Sen. Robert Menendez and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos held first of three debates at Montclair State University Thursday.

Sen. Robert Menendez and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos discussed the economy, health care and foreign policy in a combative debate Thursday.  

The candidates, who are competing for one of New Jersey's seats in the U.S. Senate, each claimed their own policies would prove to be more beneficial to the state's middle class families.

Kyrillos, a Republican, has held a seat in the New Jersey Senate since 1992. Menendez, a Democrat and the incumbent, has held his current position since he was appointed by then-Gov. Jon Corzine in 2006. He previously served in the House of Representatives.

Menendez said he would fight for the middle class by continuing to lead initiatives such as creating tax credits for families and students. He also said he wanted to close tax loopholes exploited by corporations and continue to bring money to New Jersey, as he has for transportation programs like NJTransit.

"The middle class is under attack, and that is why I have been fighting back," Menendez said.

Watch the first New Jersey U.S. Senate debate. Forward to timestamp 30:00.

Kyrillos criticized Menendez for a possible increase in the tax rate next year, but Menendez said he believed legislators would work hard for the remainder of this year to keep taxes from increasing.

"We have to be sure we don't give a body blow to this economy, which is still in recovery," Menendez told reporters.

Kyrillos said he would advocate for universal tax cuts, including for corporations, in order to encourage growth. He has previously supported state initiatives to create incentives to encourage businesses to come to New Jersey.

"We're going to have to raise revenue, and I want to do it through growth," Kyrillos said.

On health care, Menendez said he would continue his policy of advocating for low-income families to have affordable options. On abortion, he is pro-choice and has previously voted in favor of health care which allows women to have different options.

"I want women to make their own decisions about their health care and their bodies," Menendez said.

Menendez criticized Kyrillos for changing his stance on abortion from pro-life to pro-choice, though Kyrillos said he believes women should have options, but also supports parental notice and a waiting period. Kyrillos said he opposes third trimester abortions.

Kyrillos also said he believed some of the president's health care changes were necessary, including coverage for people with pre-existing illnesses and allowing young adults to stay on their parents' plans. Other parts of the plan come with too high a cost, Kyrillos said, though he did not specify what portions. 

Both candidates agreed that Iran was a serious threat to national security. Menendez has sponsored legislation creating sanctions against Iran, which he said has already had an effect on their economy and he hoped would discourage their pursuit of a nuclear program. Kyrillos said the sanctions were not working, as Iran has apparently not given up on its nuclear ambitions.

Kyrillos also said he supports an eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan, though he previously criticized the withdrawal time line. Menendez said he was glad American troops were gone from Iraq because he believed it was a mistake to go there in the first place. He also supports a switch from an anti-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan to an anti-terrorist strategy, which would require fewer troops in the country, he said. 

The candidates are scheduled to participate in two more debates on Oct. 10, sponsored by 101.5 FM, and Oct. 14, sponsored by The League of Women Voters of New Jersey Education Fund, WABC-TV, WPV1-TZV and Univision.

Project Bluebeam October 06, 2012 at 02:59 AM
But its OK of Springsteen does?
Opinionated October 06, 2012 at 11:36 AM
I thought it was Black Panthers in Philly.
Opinionated October 06, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Menendez wants to lower wages and take away jobs from young people, especially minorities by giving them to illegals. And then people like Tonto can hire them for cheap labor.
Tom Maras October 06, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Who do the Politicians Serve and Protect? Part 1 of 2 US GLOBAL RANKINGS: HEALTH CARE: Despite the claim by many in the U.S. health policy community that international comparison is not useful because of the uniqueness of the United States, the rankings have figured prominently in many arenas. It is hard to ignore that in 2006, the United States was number 1 in terms of health care spending per capita but ranked 39th for infant mortality, 43rd for adult female mortality, 42nd for adult male mortality, and 36th for life expectancy.3 These facts have fueled a question now being discussed in academic circles, as well as by government and the public: Why do we spend so much to get so little? (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0910064) ECONOMY: The U.S. has tumbled further down a global ranking of the world's most competitive economies, landing at fifth place because of its huge deficits and declining public faith in government, a global economic group said…(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/07/us-economy-rank-falls_n_951821.html)
Tom Maras October 06, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Who do the Politicians Serve and Protect? Part 2 of 2 EDUCATION: International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/07/us-falls-in-world-education-rankings_n_793185.html) Personal opinion. Every incumbent in office over two terms whether local state or federal should be voted out of office. As a rather astute pumper sticker (one never knows where one may find words of wisdom) pointed out: Politicians and baby diapers need to be changed often and for the same reason!
Joe R October 06, 2012 at 02:24 PM
As regards those PISA scores, when poverty is taken into account, US schools in the suburbs (with much lower levels of poverty) do just as well as and often better than the best performing international schools. The higher performing international schools are doing none of the horrible things we are doing in the US: such as NCLB, RTTP, charter schools, school vouchers or home schooling. Home schooling is illegal in Germany and does not exist in Finland. Those higher performing countries have not declared war on public schools, public school teachers and their unions as we have in the US. All the Finnish teachers are unionized, there is no version of Mitt Romney or Chris Christie waging 24/7 non stop war against the teacher unions.
Cardinal October 06, 2012 at 02:26 PM
For Years in Legislature Kyrillos Did Nothing to Lower Property Taxes!
Irina October 06, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Kyrillos did nothing??? How much nothing did Menendez do? Menendez is out for 2 people....himself and hispanics....White and black middle class mean nothing to Menendez.
Tx October 06, 2012 at 03:43 PM
There is the answer, both have done nothing
Cardinal October 07, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Kyrillos & NJ Property Taxes just what did he do to lower them? Why send another Republican Obstructionist to Congress who Pledges his loyalty FIRST to A Republican, Grover Norquist, the one dimensional anti-tax Lobbyist WHO WON'T REVEAL HIS FUNDING SOURCES.
Will October 07, 2012 at 03:53 PM
It's nice your all thinking of independents now, at least, the problem is you want the sane type of people that claim there independent. A former FBI agent?!? You don't think the two party system has realized what a big majority of people are looking independents over and should back a few? You think a connected guy to a scumbag, backstabbing organization like the FBI is a good pick? Do you really have any idea what the FBI do? The last thing you want is another person, connected to any of the fed alphabet list!! http://freedomfiles.org/war/fema.htm
Sal Petoia October 07, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I am tired of walking into a store or reading a cereal box that is also written in Spanish. I am tired of making a phone call and being told to "press 1 for English", etc. No one catered to my Italian ancestors… they had to learn English! So why did Menendez (and Lautenberg) vote against making English the official language of the United States of America? I see catering to any particular group contributing to the dividing of America.
none of yobusiness October 08, 2012 at 02:48 AM
I like what Mr Sal Petoia is saying. I often feel like a foreigner right here at the Jersey Shore, that is sad. Learn English or get out.
fed up October 10, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I could not agree more.
Cardinal October 10, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Republican Tea Partier Senator Rand Paul wants US funding eliminated in countries like Libya yet now Republicans are critical of the lack of protection for our embassy there? Republicans apparently want it BOTH Ways they want protection of Embassys but then they don't want to pay for it. Confusing. I think the Republicans have to get together and decide on one policy, don't they Tea Partiers.
bd October 10, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Foriegn aid and the funding of embassies are two completely different subjects---but, dims NEVER let facts get in the way of their IDIOCY
Cardinal October 10, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Congressional Republican Issa who is now Interrogating the President's State Dept people was arrested twice prior to his political career, once for a concealed weapons charge the 2nd for Grand Theft. How is this guy qualified to question anyone about anything ??? He also left the scene of an accident saying to the accident victim he didn't have time to wait for the police, he settled out of court on that one.
Dentss Dunnagun October 10, 2012 at 08:58 PM
We are now seeing that Obamacare is a job killer and just wait till 2013 when it all really kicks in ! ...where is Menendez now ?
BobDee October 18, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Tonto, know this, Menendez signed the NDAA. That's all we need to know. He's gone.
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Uh - Voting 'Independant' isn't going to do a thing - except waste your vote.
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Of course, it's the Irish. Lest we forget Menendez lunches with La Raza's leaders...they all speack gaelic. *Ahem.*
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Bon Jovi takes a farm credit as a bee keeper. He registered his 'business' in Tennessee, and pays almost nothing in coporate taxes. Seems like it's perfectly okay for liberals to do this, but god forbid if a Republican even thinks about it.
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Menendez has nationally pushed for the Dream Act to pass. He's pushed for Amnesty, too. Meanwhile, in this state, he's made it easier for illegals to have access to our social serivce system, courtesy of taxpayers. Numbers are off the charts in this state.
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 11:01 PM
The only thing Menendez has in mind is citizenship and expanded rights for the *Irish.* He's helped Obama implement the US Food Stamp Program throughout Mexico. That's right. Working American taxpayers are paying for food stamp distriubution thoughout our neighboring country. If your not 'Irish' - you can forget it.
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Correct. Incidentally, for years, Lautenberg has owned an international payroll processing company that outsources jobs everywhere but here in the US. Think he's concerned about Americans and their jobs? Think again. Also, Lautenberg voted seven times against the death penalty for terrorists who kill Americans. Feel safe? As for Menendez, he only supports issues that benefit the *Irish." Unless your *Irish* you can forget it.
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 11:06 PM
SEIU workers, aka: Ghetto Ratts, being bused in to show fake support for Obama.
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 11:09 PM
'Reublican Obststructionist?" Obviously, you support Menendez. Figures.
Typical Obama Voter October 26, 2012 at 11:12 PM
I love Bob Menendez and Bob Griffiths. They hate racists and they love poor people.They are perfect. Especially Griffiths.
jerseytomato October 26, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Look - the issues are very simple. A). If your going to place an American Ambassador in a Foreign Embassy, at least provide adequate security. B). Republicans blocked the 450 million dollars Obama wanted to give Egypt, aka: The Muslim Brotherhood, last week. C). Republicans also blocked the 45 million that Hillary Clinon wanted to give Libya AFTER Ambassador Stevens was sodomized and then murdered. Why would anyone in their right mind reward a country that hates us and wants to see us dead? Republicans are all for security Americans and our Embassies. Republicans are against funding the Muslim Brotherhood, Syrian rebels (who admittedly are members of Al Queda) and/or countries who perpetrate acts of violence against America.
Spooner October 27, 2012 at 01:20 AM
jerseytomato- Republican Congressman Darrel Issa, the Chairman of the Obama witch hunt committee, was instrumental in cutting $500M from State Dept funding for security. . .Typical Republican duplicity bull... http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/opinion/republicans-have-no-shame.html?_r=1&pagewanted=al

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