Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Joseph Kyrillos, a New Jersey lawmaker running for a U.S. Senate seat that his party hasn’t won since 1972, may rely on Governor Chris Christie’s national fundraising skills to defeat Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez.
Kyrillos, 51, a state senator from Middletown, about an hour’s drive from Manhattan, announced yesterday that he “will soon” formally announce his candidacy. A former head of the state Republican Party, Kyrillos was chairman of Christie’s campaign to unseat Democrat Jon Corzine in 2009.
“Chris Christie is going to help Joe Kyrillos raise a lot of money, and that’s important,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, said in a telephone interview. “We’re talking about a good, close friend of Chris Christie. This is not just any Republican candidate. This is where Chris Christie is owed quite a few favors across the country, and he’s going to call them in.”
Christie, 49, who is midway through his first four-year term, campaigned this month in Iowa and New Hampshire for Mitt Romney, 64, the former Massachusetts governor who is the front-running Republican candidate for U.S. president. Kyrillos was New Jersey head of Romney’s 2008 presidential run.
Last year, Christie headlined fundraisers and made appearances for candidates in states such as California, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina and Ohio.
One Christie stop alone, for the Missouri Republican Party, raised about $500,000, according to a report on the St. Louis Beacon website. Tickets for a Louisiana event cost from $10,000 to $100,000, the Associated Press reported.
A New Jersey Republican hasn’t won a U.S. Senate seat since 1972, the last victory for four-term incumbent Clifford P. Case. Christie was the first Republican to win statewide election in 12 years. In October, when he campaigned for Republicans running for the Legislature, Christie predicted his party would “make history.” The Democrats maintained their 24-16 control in the Senate and gained a seat in the Assembly, for a 48-32 margin.
Murray said Kyrillos will have “a big uphill battle” against Menendez, 58, who had $6.9 million in his campaign fund as of Sept. 30, according to Federal Election Commission data.
Kyrillos didn’t return a phone call for comment today.
‘Brink of Bankruptcy’
“Under Governor Christie’s leadership and with the support of fiscal conservatives like myself, we took a state that had been mismanaged to the brink of bankruptcy, and we turned it around,” Kyrillos said in a statement yesterday. “I intend to do the same in Washington.”
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the New Jersey Republican State Committee, declined to comment on any potential Christie involvement in Kyrillos’s fundraising or campaigning. Christie declined to comment today after an event in Newark.
Brad Lawrence, a campaign consultant for Menendez, said the senator “is one whose story, whose record connects with people in the state.” Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, serves on the Banking, Finance and Foreign Relations committees.
“We don’t think this is an election about Chris Christie,” Lawrence said in a telephone interview.
Christie’s job approval rating was 53 percent favorable to 39 percent unfavorable, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Jan. 18. Menendez was rated favorably by 42 percent to 39 percent. In an election, Menendez would beat an unnamed Republican by 46 percent to 35 percent, the poll found.
The survey of 1,460 registered voters took place Jan. 10 to 16 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points, Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac said.
Kyrillos will have a tough time in a presidential election year, when New Jerseyans typically favor Democratic incumbents, said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University in Lawrenceville.
“If there’s someone who can overcome those challenges, it’s probably Joe Kyrillos,” Dworkin said in a telephone interview. “He’s articulate, aggressive -- all the things you need. He has served as state chair of the New Jersey Republican Party. Because of that, he has a network of friends and supporters throughout the state.”
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