NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Sparks flew as New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican rival Bob Hugin clashed in their first and only debate.
Hugin said Wednesday on the NJTV debate televised statewide that the two-term senator “failed and embarrassed us.”
“I’m running because we deserve better,” the challenger said. “I began my career in the Marine Corps, where I learned selflessness, leadership, honor, and integrity.”
Menendez shot right back, calling Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive, “greedy” over high cancer drug prices.
“He raised the price of the drug not once, not twice, but three times,” Menendez said. “He preyed on the most vulnerable.”
Hugin retired from bio-tech company Celgene earlier this year.
Menendez is on the defensive in a race where Hugin poured $24 million of his own money into ads attacking him over his 2017 corruption trial. Menendez denied wrongdoing in the bribery case and the trial ended in a mistrial. Prosecutors dropped the charges.
“The reality is I understand people in the state are disappointed,” Menendez said in the face of questioning. “I apologize, but I also want them to look at the totality of my service for standing up for the people of New Jersey.”
Menendez attacked Hugin as an ally of President Donald Trump, who is unpopular in New Jersey. Hugin tried to pitch himself as more of an independent candidate.
“I don’t support the president’s (plans for) offshore drilling, I don’t support him and his failure to support infrastructure in New Jersey,” Hugin said.
The candidates did agree on a handful of issues, including the need immigration reform, the removal on the $10,000 cap on SALT, and funding for the state’s infrastructure.
Experts say the race is tighter than expected despite a Democratic registration advantage. New Jerseyans will ultimately decide who they want when they hit the polls on November 6.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)