Leigh-Ann Bellew, the Tea Party backed candidate running against State Senator Joe Kyrillos in the 13th legislative district GOP primary issued a debate challenge to the incumbent yesterday just as simmering questions about her educational background surfaced in the press.
Bellew said that Trenton has changed Kyrillos over the last 26 years and that 13th district Republicans should learn where the candidates stand on the Constitution, Tax Policy and Gun Rights.
“Joe Kyrillos has not had to face questions from Republican voters because there has not been an alternative voice,” said Bellew, ” Like a growing number of voters in District 13, I have seen an ideological shift by my opponent during the 26 years he has been in office. His stance against protecting the life of the unborn, limiting the freedoms of law-abiding citizens by decreasing their access to fire arms, and saying those who have worked hard for their own money need to fund more government no longer puts him in touch with the voters of this district. As such, I’ve invited Mr. Kyrillos to a series of debates. We can both answer questions in front of the voters on the constitution, the law, tax policy, and what we define as Liberty and Prosperity. This is a chance for the voters to learn where we stand on the issues and understand how we will govern.”
“I believe the voters in District 13 want to discuss the issues. I invite Joe Kyrillos to join me to debate the issues. From my years of studying the constitution, reading the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, and a personal study of how our laws have been shaped by our Founding Fathers – I am confident the Senator and I can have a healthy discussion to help the voters best decide who should represent them and write laws that protect them.”
But questions about Bellew’s “years of studying” have arisen with the implication that the candidate and her supporters have overstated her educational credentials since 2006 when she was a candidate for Congress. In an post with the headline Legal Eagle?, PolitickerNJ points to blog posts on the Bayshore Tea Party Group site, Save Jersey and WorldNewsDaily wherein either the candidate or her supporters cite her formal legal education and professional background. The WND article referred to her as an attorney.
Bellew, who was the GOP nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, has described herself on a social networking site as having come from “a professional background with advanced degrees in political science and law.”
Similarly, in a post on the Bayshore Tea Party Blog, an attendee of one of Bellew’s Constitution courses describes the candidate as having “formal education in law,” including Constitutional law. In a recent interview with the conservative news site Save Jersey, Bellew said her “post-collegiate education” “focused on history and constitutional law.”
And she’s even been quoted by news outlets as an attorney. The conservative news website WorldNetDaily referred to Bellew as “an attorney” when she was quoted in a January 2011 story on a lawsuit involving Christian homeschooling parents.
However, Bellew’s biography on her campaign website makes no mention of the candidate having a degree in law. Her Linked In profile lists Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communications and History while other bios found list a Master of Science Degree in Political Science from the University of North Texas. UNT does not offer a law degree.
Earlier this month, MoreMonmouthMusings asked Bellew about her legal education. She told us that she graduated from law school in Texas but did not take the bar exam. She said she took a job with American Express in New York after graduation instead.
Bellew has not responded to a phone call asking for clarification on her education.
Kyrillos has not responded to an inquiry about whether or not he will debate Bellew.