Boxer                         Fiorina

By Jack Chang
Published: Thursday, Sep. 2, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1A

MORAGA – In a bitter debate filled with personal attacks Wednesday night, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer repeatedly slammed Republican rival Carly Fiorina’s record as the CEO of tech giant Hewlett-Packard while Fiorina called the veteran Democrat an out-of-touch career politician indifferent to the suffering of ordinary Californians.

The two women also staked out contrasting stands on issues such as abortion rights, the state’s climate change law and gun control, with Fiorina defending positions that public opinion polls show are unpopular with many of the state’s voters.

Boxer, for her part, entered the debate identified with a Democratic administration suffering from sinking approval ratings and viewed as unable to turn around crippling unemployment.

The 60-minute standoff held at St. Mary’s College, which was broadcast statewide, marked the two women’s only scheduled debate in a race that polls show is a dead heat.

Boxer lived up to her combative reputation by portraying Fiorina as a callous CEO who outsourced thousands of jobs.

The three-term senator also highlighted Fiorina’s opposition to abortion rights and criticism of AB 32, a state law that commits California to cutting greenhouse gases.

“When she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, before she was terminated actually, she shipped 30,000 jobs overseas,” Boxer said. “Think about it. That’s the size of Foster City. That reminds me of Wall Street. … Bonuses at the top. Pain for everybody else.”

Fiorina, who has not run for office before, condemned Boxer’s Hewlett-Packard attacks and portrayed the Democrat as a do-nothing senator.

While Fiorina stays tightly on a job-creation message on the campaign trail, Boxer’s relentless criticism during the debate forced her to spend precious minutes defending her corporate record.

“I think it’s actually a shame,” Fiorina said, “that Barbara Boxer would use Hewlett-Packard, a treasure of California, one of the great companies in the world, as a political football.”

Fiorina then went after Boxer’s legislative résumé, saying, “The truth is her record is long on talk and short on achievement. She is one of the most bitterly partisan members of the U.S. Senate.”

Policy discussion was largely an exception to the rule Wednesday, with Fiorina proposing cutting taxes and regulations to create jobs and Boxer listing her legislative achievements.

Those included securing funding for transportation projects and a care center for wounded U.S. troops and backing legislation that provided funding to retain teachers.

Fiorina criticized the teachers’ proposal as unlikely to result in immediate jobs.

The Republican lauded other countries, including Poland, Ireland and China, and states such as Texas for doing more to attract jobs than California.

“China rewards innovation better than we do,” Fiorina said.

Both Fiorina and Boxer spoke to their respective bases. California is a state with 2.3 million more Democrats than Republicans. But the race is expected to be close, and will turn on which candidate can attract independent voters.

After the debate, Boxer told reporters she is hoping for more exchanges.

Fiorina repeatedly declined to take a stand on a November initiative, Proposition 23, which would overturn California’s law to require a reduction of greenhouse gases.

“A state acting alone will make no difference,” she said. “My focus is on a national energy policy.”

Boxer campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said there were “generally no big surprises” in the debate but was intrigued by Fiorina’s failure to take a position on Proposition 23.

Kapolczynski said she suspects that Fiorina believes her stand is “so out of touch with Californians that she is walking it back.”

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