UNION CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The race is heating up for New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seat.

CBS2’s Meg Baker sat down with each of the candidates on Monday to find out how they plan to get voters’ support.

Both Sen. Robert Menendez and Republican challenger Bob Hugin grew up in Union City in Hudson County. Now they’re fighting for a U.S. Senate seat.

“If you want to know who I am you need to know where I came from,” Menendez said.

“I’m a Jersey guy committed to making New Jersey better for all,” Hugin said.

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Menendez’s career has been public service. He has held the Senate seat for 12 years. Hugin is an ex-pharmaceutical executive, Princeton graduate and former U.S. Marine.

Both, it seems, have dirt to throw and mud to sling.

When asked how much of his own money he has put into this campaign, Hugin said, “My wife and I committed over $15 million to the campaign because we want to make sure people of New Jersey hear the message, understand (Menendez’s) record of corruption and ineffective leadership, and the opportunity to do better in the future.”

“My opponent, who made a killing out of cancer patients, used a monopoly of a single drug to become a multimillionaire on the back of cancer patients. I think that in judgement, people will accept my judgment better than his,” Menendez said.

Menendez was indicted in 2015 on corruption charges, but jurors failed to reach a verdict last year and the senator was cleared after a judge dismissed all charges following a request from prosecutors. His peers on the Senate Ethics Committee did admonish him.

So how does that impact his power to get things done for the people of New Jersey?

“Since I came back to the Senate after the trial, I was returned as ranking Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” said Menendez. “I don’t think if they thought so poorly of me they’d be joining me as co-sponsors and co-readers of legislation.”

Hugin just left Summit, New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company Celgene after 19 years. When reminded that he has been criticized for running a company that did raise the cost of a very vital cancer drug, Hugin said, “I can tell you, Meg, I’m really proud of what Celgene has done.”

“Today, it has turned multiple terminal cancers into chronic diseases,” Hugin continued. “During my tenure at Celgene I’m not aware of one patient in financial need who did not get access to life-saving medicines.”

Hugin, who supported President Donald Trump, touts his business background and ability to reach across the aisle and work with all political parties to get things done.

Menendez said he will continue to push for a new Hudson River tunnel and to regain state and local federal tax deductions that were taken away. So far, his challenger has come out strong with commercial after commercial hitting the incumbent. The senator’s team says to expect a mix of positive and negative ads to hit the airwaves soon.

The GOP holds a slim 51-49 majority. There are 10 Democratic senators fighting for re-election, a reason why Menendez says the stakes have never been higher. A New Jersey Republican hasn’t won election to the U.S. Senate since 1972.


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