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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 like 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.

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.

Chuck Ruff October 08, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I think someone was.... quote WorriedMan2012; "I find it uncanny that these Democrat Politicians all never had a real job other than politics"
Scondo October 08, 2012 at 05:31 PM
@Hookerman --That is perhaps true in the case of most of them, it is not true for Frank. There is another issue with Frank that few want to talk about and that is the age factor and the idea that they should hold office till death as in the case of Ted Kennedy. We are developing a farm system of politics where we have a lot of unskilled, unproven, careeris politicians who have never had to deal in real world business situations so they have no conscious idea of budgets and money and where it comes from. Obama is one such guy, but so is Corey Booker and so is the GOP VEEP candidate. None of these guys impress as much as Frank--at least Frank worked before becoming senator. The real issue is the lack of money coming back to the state of NJ
Chuck Ruff October 08, 2012 at 06:21 PM
And do you know what the criticism of Lautenberg was when he first ran for Senate in 1982? That he wasn’t a seasoned politician like his opponent Millicent Fenwick was. We want our politicians to be experienced, but too much experience, and we dub them career politicians. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Belleville Sentinel October 08, 2012 at 09:09 PM
I thought is was clear from my post that the information was taken from the Wiki page for Senator Lautenberg.
Louis Herkalo October 19, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I love hearing people talk about absentee Senator's. What about NJ's absentee Govenor? He's more worries more about Mitt Romney getting elected then he does about the state he was elected to govern! Everytime Christie goes from state to state, the money to travel, food(I can imagine what that tab is alone!), etc. comes out of your pocket, not his! As for Corzine, he wasn't too well liked. One thing he did though was leave Christie a surplus when he left office! Then when NJ's larger then life Govenor took over there was a $440,000 mistake. 1st Christie blamed & fired Brett Schundler, then he blamed Obama? Tuns out Christie was the one who made the "huge" mistake!

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