With Sen. Bob Menendez leading his Republican opponent by 11
points in the race for the U.S. Senate, Menendez announced that he
and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos will face off in three debates next
The debates were announced a few hours after a poll showed Menendez receiving support from 43 percent of likely voters, while 32 percent said they would vote for Kyrillos. But the poll also showed both candidates -- and Kyrillos in particular -- struggling with a lack of name recognition.
The first debate, set for Oct. 4, will be at Montclair State University and broadcast on NJTV. It is sponsored by the university and North Jersey Media Group, the publisher of The Record.
The next debate will take place the following week, on Oct. 10. The Menendez campaign did not release that debate's location, but said it will be broadcast on 101.5 FM.
Three days later, on Oct. 13, the candidates will meet again. That debate will be recorded and shown the following day on the ABC television affiliates WABC and WPVI and on Univision. That debate is sponsored by the TV stations and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey Education Fund.
In a Philadelphia Inquirer New Jersey poll released Tuesday, 59 percent of respondents said they were not familiar with Kyrillos, a Republican state senator from Monmouth County, and 22 percent said they were not familiar with Menendez, the incumbent Democrat. The three October debates may help the candidates improve their name recognition.
The Kyrillos campaign wanted many more debates and accepted at least seven invitations from debate sponsors, the campaign said Tuesday. It posted a YouTube clip last month showing a campaign staffer unsuccessfully trying to hand-deliver a debate invitation to Menendez.
The Menendez campaign, though, said the three debates are just another part of the senator's efforts to speak with voters.
"Throughout his public service career, Senator Menendez has been in direct dialogue with constituents throughout the state," Menendez campaign manager Michael Soliman said in a statement.
Kyrillos staffers disagreed.
"In 2006, Senator Menendez was eager to debate, accepting invitations as early as June," Kyrillos campaign manager Chapin Fay said in a statement. "Now that 'Beltway Bob' has a record of economic failure following him around, he doesn't want to talk."
Menendez did debate his 2006 Republican challenger, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., twice in June of that year. But they did not debate again until fall, when they met for another two debates.
Their final debate before that election, which was broadcast on 101.5 FM on Oct. 17, "ended in a stream of unintelligible bickering as the candidates eventually drowned each other out," The Record reported at the time.
Also on Tuesday, the Menendez campaign released its first television ad, showing the candidate sitting in what appears to be a diner and talking about his efforts to support the middle class.
"The middle class is under attack. But I'm fighting back," the senator says in the 30-second spot.
The ad was released about three weeks after Kyrillos ran his first ad. That 30-second commercial, which the campaign calls "I'm Joe," introduces Kyrillos as a moderate, solution-oriented Republican.
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