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November 2006

Special Dossier: Decision 5767
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Senate candidates Bob Menendez, Tom Kean.
Special Dossier: Decision 5767

Voter's Guide: 
U.S. Senate Race New Jersey

Bob Menendez vs. Tom Kean

-- Jeff Hauser

The race for U.S. Senate in New Jersey features Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez running against Republican challenger Tom Kean.

Sen. Menendez has served since January of 2006, when he was appointed to fill the seat of newly elected Gov. Jon Corzine. Prior to his appointment, he served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 13th District and building a strong record as a member of the International Relations Committee. He also served as Mayor of Union City, NJ.

Tom Kean, Jr., comes from a well-known political family. His father served as governor in the 1980s, and Kean currently serves as a state Senator from the 21st District. He is the Republican's Minority Whip in the Senate. He was appointed by his party to fill a vacant state Senate seat in 2003; similarly, he was appointed to fill a vacant Assembly seat in 2001.

This is one of the most-watched races in the Senate, and nearly every poll shows a very tight race. Control of this seat is certain to play a part in control of the Senate.

Some have pointed to experience as a factor in this race. David Rebovich, a New Jersey political columnist and director of the Rider University Institute for New Jersey Politics spoke to this question as the race was taking shape. He said that Menendez had an "impressive intellect...and knowledge of domestic and foreign policy...this veteran public official has several well-reasoned alternatives to GOP policies."

Of Kean Rebovich said, "there's the question of whether the state Senator is really ready for prime time...what is not clear yet is his knowledge of major domestic and foreign policy issues that occupy U.S. Senators."

Another issue that will affect this race is the relative unpopularity of President Bush, whose approval ratings in the state have not broken 40% for more than a year. Menendez is unambiguous on this issue, describing himself as "someone who can stand up, take on, and beat back President Bush."

Kean is deeply connected to the Republican establishment, but he's trying to run as an "independent reformer." He even resorted to blaming traffic on Route 1 for his inability to attend a major fundraiser with Dick Cheney, and also declined to attend a major fundraiser on his behalf featuring Karl Rove.

Menendez has taken strong, clear stances on Israel, stem-cell research, reproductive rights and the separation of church and state, and he has established a long legislative record on these issues. AIPAC's Josh Bloch has praised his support of Israel, calling him "among the few really outstanding leaders on issues of importance to the pro-Israel community." Kean is a supporter of Israel, but his record on the other issues is less clear.

Here's some more information on how the candidates stand on issues of importance to the Jewish community:

  Bob Menendez (D. incumbent)
Tom Kean (R)
  • Strong supporter of Israel.
  • National Jewish organizations have strongly praised Menendez' record on Israel. Former AIPAC President David Steiner said, "In my years of working in the pro-Israel community, I have not met a leader who understands the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship better than Bob Menendez."
  • Strong supporter of Israel.
  • From Kean's web site: "It is important that the United States remains committed to Israel as a partner and a friend."
Medical Freedom
  • Pro-choice: Menendez is a strong supporter of reproductive rights.
  • While in the House, Menendez consistently earned a perfect rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.


  • According to Planned Parenthood, Kean has a mixed record on reproductive-rights issues, supporting some restrictions.
  • Kean praised the nomination of anti-choice Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
Stem Cell Research
  • From his website: "Senator Menendez believes in the tremendous promise of embryonic stem cell research...when it comes to stem cell research, Senator Menendez is helping researchers make the promise of embryonic stem cell research become a reality. ?
  • Menendez was a co-sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.
  • Kean has a mixed record on stem-cell research. He has expressed support during this campaign season, but as a state Senator he voted against the creation of a Stem Cell Institute in the New Jersey Senate.


Separation of Church and State
  • Menendez has consistently voted in favor of church-state separation.
  • As a member of the House, he received a rating of 15 out of 100 from the conservative Christian Coalition in 2003 and 2004 and a rating of 0 from the Christian Coalition in 2002.
  • As a member of the Senate, he has supported the priorities of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
  • There is no public record of Kean's stance on church-state issues.


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