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Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina Trade Barbs in First California Senate Debate

5 years ago
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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif). and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina faced off in their first debate Wednesday night, a showdown that featured sharp attacks and touched on abortion, gay marriage, immigration, the environment and especially jobs.

Each Senate candidate vowed to bring down the state's double-digit unemployment rate and characterized the other as out of touch with ordinary Californians during the hour-long event at St. Mary's College in Moraga, east of Oakland.

Fiorina, hoping to capitalize on anti-incumbent sentiment, painted the long-serving senator as a fiercely partisan and ineffective Washington insider with no connection to the middle class. She called Boxer's policies "devastating for this state."

Boxer accused the former Hewlett-Packard chief of holding "Wall Street values" and fighting "for the billionaires, for the millionaires" and corporate interests.

The senator claimed again and again that Fiorina sent 30,000 jobs overseas before being ousted from HP with a $21 million severance package.

Fiorina shot back by calling Boxer's job creation record during 18 years in the Senate ineffective.

"She is for more taxes, she is for more spending, she is for more regulation," Fiorina said. "Her record is long on talk and very short on achievement, and the reason it is short is because she is one of the most bitterly partisan members of the U.S. Senate."

The forum's moderator repeatedly scolded both women for "drifting" away from the questions at hand to lob verbal snipes at each other.

The face-off featured a handful of recorded questions from California voters. One resident asked why Boxer felt like she needed to run for a fourth term. Why not give someone else a chance? The senator replied every election is an opportunity for voters to have a "clear choice" about who they want to represent them.

"I'm in the United States Senate because I fight for the people; I fight for the dream," Boxer said.

The economy took center stage, but the debate also featured a number of other issues

On abortion, Fiorina said she she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade "if there were an opportunity," but she added "it is not something I am running on."

Boxer, a longtime supporter of abortion rights, jumped on the issue in an effort to cast Fiorina's views as overly conservative.


"What the people of California have to understand is that if my opponent's views prevailed, women and doctors would be criminals," she said. "They would go to jail. And women would die like they did before Roe v. Wade."

Asked about same-sex unions and California's contentious Proposition 8, Fiorina said she believes "marriage is between a man and a woman." But, she said, as senator she would defer to the judgment of state voters, saying she disagreed with a federal court's ruling overturning Prop 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that banned gay marriage.

"Whatever your views about gay marriage, I think many of us would conclude that when voters have such a clear decision, for that decision to be overturned by a single judge seems perhaps not appropriate," Fiorina said.

And, no, there wasn't a mention of "hairgate," the kerfuffle that flared up earlier this summer when Fiorina was caught on an open mic making fun of Boxer's 'do. Fiorina deemed the senator's hairstyle, "Sooooo yesterday." Boxer has since been trying to play the gaffe against her opponent.


"It's not about hair. It's about real issues that matter," Boxer said Tuesday during a campaign stop in San Francisco.

The two have been running neck-and-neck, and now all eyes will turn to new polls in the coming days to see if the debate helped make up voters' minds.

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