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U.S. Senate candidates in N.J. asked for pledge on Social Security benefits

 Members of progressive groups hold a news conference in front of the N.J. Statehouse to urge candidates in a special U.S. Senate election to voice support for Social Security benefit increases. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Members of progressive groups hold a news conference in front of the N.J. Statehouse to urge candidates in a special U.S. Senate election to voice support for Social Security benefit increases. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Progressive organizations are calling on all of the Democratic candidates in the U.S. Senate race in New Jersey to publicly support a plan to increase Social Security benefits.

The New Jersey Working Family Alliance, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and members of Democracy of America also want the candidates to promise never to cut Social Security benefits.

Trenton resident Richard Reny, who worked for years in heavy construction and at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, said with rising costs and medical expenses, it’s hard to make ends meet.

“I had expectation that Social Security would help me in my retirement and today I realize that I’m having a hard time to meet all my financial demands,” he said during a gathering Thursday on the State House steps in Trenton.

Trenton resident Marge Berkeyheiser retired on Social Security disability after working 20 years as a quality control inspector. She says costs are rising, and she relies on Social Security for basic needs.

“After bills, I have $500 to buy the necessary things I need for a month,” she said, “This is an uncomfortable and an impossible situation seniors are being put in. It’s not realistic.”

Members of Democracy for America, the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee want the Senate candidates to promise never to cut Social Security benefits.

The progressive groups are urging Congress to approve a measure that would give Social Security recipients who are 75 and older a benefit increase of more than $450 per year.

Democratic candidates in the Aug. 13 primary are Newark Mayor Cory Booker, U.S. Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone, and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

Republican voters will choose between former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and tea-party favored candidate Dr. Alieta Eck.

The Senate election will be held Oct. 16.

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