- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey’s U.S. Senate candidates clashed Friday over the minimum wage, immigration policy, jobs and other issues in their only debate of the race, now heading into the last full week of campaigning before the Nov. 4 election.

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and Republican challenger Jeff Bell sparred for under an hour, answering questions from a five-member media panel. Their taped debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Trenton, will be aired Sunday on WABC-TV and WPVI-TV.

Booker, who won a special election last year, and his challenger occasionally became testy with each other, especially when Bell at one point interrupted Booker and the incumbent questioned Bell’s civility.

Booker also repeatedly linked Bell to the tea party movement, suggesting Bell’s views are out of step with the majority of voters.

“He’s part of a movement that is going to be slamming and slandering and not stopping that madness,” Booker said.

After the debate, Bell brushed off the criticism, saying he supports the movement.

For his part, Bell several times mentioned President Barack Obama, whose approval ratings are sagging, and blamed the president’s policies for the influx of children across the U.S. southern border. Bell also questioned the president’s use of executive orders to achieve his aims.

“You pay lip service to bipartisanship,” Bell told his opponent. “But you just advocated something that would completely foul the immigration debate, having the president do everything by executive action.”

Booker later said if Bell wanted to criticize the president he should do it from his think tank. Bell worked for the Washington-based American Principles Project policy organization and lived in Virginia until recently.

Booker also took issue with Bell’s relocation to New Jersey, and Bell responded by saying it’s not a “gotcha” point and that he’s acknowledged in campaign speeches that he hasn’t lived in the state in 30 years. He said he decided to run because of the Federal Reserve policy of zero percent interest, which he called “disastrous.”

Bell, 70, the GOP Senate nominee in 1978, said it is the wrong time to raise the minimum wage and that hiking the federal $7.25 per hour rate would price young workers out of the market.

Booker, 45, disagreed and said he’s spoken to a number of people who could be helped by raising the rate.

“My opponent says it’s a bad time to do what’s right,” Booker said. “It is a good time to raise the minimum wage. We are America. Nobody should work fulltime and find themselves under the poverty line.”

Bell criticized Booker for agreeing to only a single debate, saying he debated numerous times with Democrat Bill Bradley. Booker countered, saying the debate was not the only way voters could find out about the candidates’ views.

A Monmouth University poll released this month showed Booker leading Bell among likely voters.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide