Middletown, N.J. — It takes Joe Kyrillos, a 52-year-old state senator, 15 minutes to reach his table at the New Monmouth Diner. It’s late in the afternoon and the crowd has thinned, but two silver-haired grandfathers want a word, and a young mother with a child at her knee has a question. Waitresses hoisting heavy trays of burgers and Cokes brush past Kyrillos as he moves from booth to booth, talking politics.
Kyrillos is running for the U.S. Senate against Senator Bob Menendez, the Garden State’s junior senator and the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. As a Republican in a deep-blue state, Kyrillos faces many challenges. Menendez is better financed, he’s better known, and he will benefit from the Obama campaign, which was able to sweep New Jersey four years ago.
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