Tackling issues from Obamacare to gun control – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and his challenger, State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Dist. 13) squared off in a forum Monday night at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston.
The competitors took part in an hourlong question-and-answer session sponsored by the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest New Jersey.
Both candidates pledged support for Israel and the relationship between the country and the United States.
"Since I was elected to the Senate, I believe Israel has had no greater friend in the United States Senate than I have been, no greater ally, no greater defender of the people of Israel against all threats and against anti-Semitism,” said Menendez.
Kyrillos reflected upon his receipt of the 2010 State of Israel Bonds Peace Medal and said that “now, more than ever, we need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel to mitigate the new and heightened risks she faces.”
Kyrillos is challenging Menendez, the incumbent U.S. Senator, who has held the post since 2006. Both men have sered at the state Legislature, with Kyrillos, a Republican, holding a seat in the New Jersey Senate since 1992.
Besides Israel, both candidates spoke about domestic issues as well, including the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Kyrillos and Menendez had a sharp difference in opinion regarding the law. Kyrillos said he favors a more “marketplace approach” that would allow consumers to be able to find health care across state lines. Menendez said he supports the act and “found it amazing” that Republican nominee Mitt Romney would be against the act when it is “the essence” of the law Romney enacted in Massachusetts.
While Menendez said he supports Obama’s policies and couldn’t immediately point to a difference in his policy’s from the president, Kyrillos painted himself as more of a moderate than his presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
“I consider myself pro-choice,” said Kyrillos. “I believe there are reasonable restrictions and constraints that reflect the issue. I believe in parental notice. I don’t like partial-birth abortion, and I believe in a short waiting period, but I believe it’s everybody’s choice. They can make up their own mind.”
Menendez, when asked whether he supports gun control laws, said he favors "intelligent and reasonable gun control measures" including limits on assault rifles, ammunition purchases and waiting periods.
"I don’t think you need to be a hunter with an ammunition clip with 100 rounds in it," he said. "If you do, you’re a very bad hunter."
The candidates also mentioned sanctions against Iran, Medicaid funding and both agreed to work in a bipartisan way, if elected.
When the candidates met during the middle of the forum, the two men shook hands and posed for pictures.