Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

2 Images of Menendez Foe

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

2 Images of Menendez Foe

Article excerpt

Competing portraits emerged Wednesday of the veteran Republican legislator who officially launched his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.

Supporters said state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, was a smart, friendly, middle-of-the-road "gentleman" who spent nearly a quarter-century trying to bolster economic growth in New Jersey.

Menendez backers depicted Kyrillos as a protector of millionaires who favored pro-gun and antiabortion extremists over women and the middle class.

Kyrillos, 51, of Middletown, comes from the Republican-rich Jersey Shore area that helped provide much of Governor Christie's winning margin in 2009.

Kyrillos is also a close friend of Christie's, and he was chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in New Jersey four years ago.

Both GOP leaders will have to help the largely unknown Kyrillos if he is to become the first Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from New Jersey in 40 years.

Menendez, who is seeking his second full term, had $8.1 million in his campaign account on Dec. 31, and made connections with donors around the country in 2010 as chairman of the party committee that helped keep the Senate under Democratic control.

Menendez led Kyrillos 43 percent to 31 percent in a poll taken at the start of this month by Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Republicans noted, however, that Menendez polled below the 50 percent threshold at which incumbents are considered safe, and that 67 percent of voters said the country is on the wrong track.

Kyrillos sought to play on public dissatisfaction with Washington when he announced his bid before about 100 supporters in the Lincroft Inn in Middletown.

He argued that Menendez and President Obama made the weak economy worse by driving up debt and imposing a health insurance coverage mandate.

'More of the same'

"They offer us nothing new or different, just more of the same: More spending, more debt, more job-killing regulation," Kyrillos said, promising to support a balanced-budget amendment, oppose higher taxes and repeal "Obamacare. …

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