Menendez, a former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee seeking a second term in the Senate, did not have a primary challenge.

Kyrillos, who has been raising money for the race for almost a year, faces a difficult path to unseating Menendez in a left-leaning state. A Quinnipiac University poll in May showed Menendez with a double-digit lead over Kyrillos in a general-election matchup.

But Kyrillos will likely benefit from the help of the state’s popular Republican governor and of Mitt Romney, who raised $400,000 for Kyrillos at a New Jersey fundraiser in April. Kyrillos, like Christie, endorsed Romney early during the primary. He also chaired Romney’s presidential campaign in New Jersey in 2008

Even before the race had been called, Menendez acknowledges Kyrillos’s victory, adding that the general election would focus on raising up the middle class rather than bringing down the powerful.

“I congratulate state Senator Joe Kyrillos on winning his primary race and look forward to a campaign that will focus on and discuss the differences between us in an honorable way,” Menendez said in a statement.