Booker and Bell meet in debate for New Jersey U.S. Senate seat

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The only New Jersey Senate debate, between Jeff Bell and Cory Booker, was held on Friday. (WABC)

The two candidates running in the U.S. Senate race in New Jersey faced off Friday in their only debate of the campaign.

Eyewitness News Anchor Sade Baderinwa co-moderated the debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Trenton, which will be aired Sunday on Channel 7.

Incumbent Democrat Cory Booker and Republican challenger Jeff Bell were far apart on a number of issues, including immigration policy, gay marriage, and how to handle the Ebola situation.

Each candidate claimed the other will make Washington gridlock even worse.

"If we send him down to Washington, he's not going to be involved in bipartisan coalitions," said Booker. "He himself has told us, 'I believe in Tea Party militancy'. That means digging in, don't compromise, the kind of shutdown government problems that we've had."

"He agrees with President Obama that no negotiations are needed, just issue an executive order. That's not my idea of bipartisanship," said Bell.

Booker won a special election last year to finish out the term of late Senator Frank Lautenberg.

He is running for his first full term in the Senate.

Bell moved back to New Jersey this year from Virginia to run for the Senate.

Bell, 70, the GOP Senate nominee in 1978, said it is the wrong time to raise the minimum wage and that hiking the federal $7.25 per hour rate would price young workers out of the market.

Booker, 45, disagreed and said he's spoken to a number of people who could be helped by raising the rate.

"My opponent says it's a bad time to do what's right," Booker said. "It is a good time to raise the minimum wage. We are America. Nobody should work fulltime and find themselves under the poverty line."

Bell criticized Booker for agreeing to only a single debate, saying he debated numerous times with Democrat Bill Bradley. Booker countered, saying the debate was not the only way voters could find out about the candidates' views.

A Monmouth University poll released this month showed Booker leading Bell among likely voters.

The debate will air on Channel 7 Sunday morning at 11 a.m., and can also be seen with our WATCH ABC app.

(Some information in this story is from the Associated Press.)
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