|State Sen. Kyrillos wins GOP nomination for U.S. Senate seat, will challenge Sen. Menendez.|
|Written by Trey Ragsdale|
|Tuesday, 05 June 2012 21:02|
HOLMDEL — Campaign ads played on a loop in the reception room decorated with red, white and blue balloons at state Sen. Joe Kyrillos' primary night party. The only thing missing was the suspense.
Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) has won the Republican nomination to take on incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in November.
“Bob Menendez,,” Kyrillos said, eliciting “boos” from the volunteers lawmakers and donors gathered at the PNC Bank Arts Center. “Some would use much harsher words, but even Democrats think that Bob Menendez is mediocre. Bob Menendez is a mediocre Senator. We deserve much better."
After voting this morning in North Bergen, Menendez, 58, tried to tie Kyrillos to what he called Wall Street's excesses, which he said brought the country to the brink of a depression, and to Republican leadership that embroiled the nation in two wars.
"I don't want to see that again," the junior senator from New Jersey said before heading back to Washington, D.C.
Kyrillos, 52, easily defeated three primary opponents: David Brown, an inventor from East Brunswick; Bader Qarmout, a professor and real estate investor from Newton; and Joseph “Rudy” Rullo, owner of a company that sells solar energy panels. Menendez ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
“Obviously, there's more to be done -- and a stronger national economy would help address many of the state's challenges,” he said. “But things are getting better. People are noticing. There's something happening in New Jersey.”
He went on, “Jon Corzine nearly bankrupted New Jersey. When Jon Corzine took down MF Global, we saw a stark version of a discredited worldview. We saw not just a failed business, but a failed philosophy -- MF Global gambled, and when the gamble failed, Jon Corzine tried to cover those losses with other people's money.”
Someone yelled out: “Corzine and Menendez, perfect together.”
The race is expected to be contentious, since Kyrillos is close to Gov. Chris Christie, who has a tense history with Menendez. But Menendez dominates in campaign cash and other factors, such as the state’s Democratic bent and 36-year history of electing only Democrats to the U.S. Senate, making it up an hill battle for Kyrillos.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said that like Christie in the 2009 gubernatorial campaign, Kyrillos is an underdog. The blue state hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in nearly four decades.
“He helped the governor plot his strategy for the New Jersey Comeback,” she said in the Robert Meyner Reception Center at The PNC Bank Arts Center. “He knows there’s only so much we can do in New Jersey to turn this economy around before we have to fix what’s going on in Washington.”