Trump dominates N.J. Senate debate between Booker, Mehta

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Rik Mehta

Left to right: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Rik Mehta. (Office of Gov. Phil Murphy; Rik Mehta/Facebook)

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Like many other political races this year, one of the main issues in the U.S. Senate contest in New Jersey is the candidates’ support for — or criticism of — President Donald Trump.

That was on display Tuesday night during the first and only debate between Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and his Republican challenger Rik Mehta.

Mehta, a pharmacist, attorney, and former FDA official, slammed Booker for focusing too much on criticizing Trump and not enough on reaching bipartisan solutions.

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But Booker, in the streamed debate hosted by the political news website New Jersey Globe, said several of his bills became law in the last four years.

“Many of the bills I’ve written and gotten bipartisan coalitions on have not only been signed by Donald Trump, but they’re his biggest bragging points on his campaign trail,” Booker said.

Meanwhile Mehta, who has praised Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, came down hard on Gov. Phil Murphy for the high rate of COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey as well as the extended economic shutdown.

“When small businesses continue to be shuttered. When people don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table and they can’t feed their family. When their American Dream is crushed,” Mehta said.

Booker is running for his second full term in the Senate, following a failed bid for president.

Mehta, a political newcomer, is the son of Indian immigrants and said he was inspired to run for office to make New Jersey a place to “live not leave.”

A recent Monmouth University poll of the state’s 2nd Congressional District had Booker leading Mehta by 47% to 39% among registered voters. That district tends to lean conservative, which means the Democrat’s lead may be even larger statewide.

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Booker, who has campaigned for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said if he were elected again he would complete his full term.

“I pledge to finish my full six-year term. That is totally my intention. I’m excited about it.”

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