Menendez, Kean trade debate barbs

The campaign of Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPoll: Menendez has 17-point lead over GOP challenger Russian attacks on America require bipartisan response from Congress Justice Dept intends to re-try Menendez in corruption case MORE (D-N.J.) is criticizing Republican challenger and state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. for pulling out of a debate scheduled for Monday because of business before the New Jersey Senate.

Votes are being held on the 2007 budget Monday. Menendez’s campaign contends that Kean will have plenty of time to get to the debate. Kean spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said the votes could last well past the scheduled 8 p.m. debate time.

Menendez’s campaign director, Steve DeMicco, said Menendez plans to go ahead with the debate, the second of two on consecutive days. He likened Kean’s missing the debate to when he missed an appearance with Vice President Cheney at his own fundraiser in March.

“There is a troubling pattern forming here,” DeMicco wrote.

Kean’s campaign manager, Evan Kozlow, responded with a letter questioning Mendendez’s ethics and challenging him to a debate July 12 on ethics and reform.