It was a defeat for Joe Kyrillos, the Republican challenger for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, who never figured out a way to beat a better-known, more financed incumbent.

State Senator Joe Kyrillos
State Senator Joe Kyrillos (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media)

Lack of name recognition and largely outspent by Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, GOP challenger Joe Kyrillos says he always knew he was an underdog.

"We were significantly outfunded, it's made me a bigger fan of campaign finance reform," Kyrillos said during his concession speech to a packed room at Nanina's In The Park in Belleville.

He waited to concede, even after the Associated Press and CNN were calling the race for Menendez. Around 10:30 pm Tuesday, he addressed the crowd.

"I called Senator Menendez and left him a message...I'm sure I will speak with him during the next few days."

Kyrillos said traveling around the state in recent days, the amount of support New Jerseyans have shown each other in the wake of Hurricane Sandy has been unbelievable. "People are helping each other and putting on brave faces in light of this tragedy...I hope Senator Menendez will help us rebuild New Jersey."

The Monmouth County senator, who's served in the state Legislature since 1992, said he will continue to serve in New Jersey.

"I have always said that one way or another I will be a senator and I will continue to do my part as a member of the state Senate."

Kyrillos pulled out his most effective weapon down the stretch - his pal of 20 years, Gov. Chris Christie, who campaigned with Kyrillos at diners and rallies at least six times. The governor and the legislator go way back; Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, double-dated with Kyrillos when he took his wife on their first date.

"I want to give a special thanks to our Governor, Chris Christie, for everything he has done for this campaign."

Kyrillos said he hopes Washington will take notes about bipartisanship from the state.

"We are putting aside our differences in this state and moving things forward, its time for Washington to do the same for America."

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM