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Fiorina says mosque near ground zero is a "local issue"

August 15, 2010 |  7:29 pm

Two days after President Obama waded into the controversy over plans to build a mosque near ground zero in New York City, Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina said it was an “intensely personal and local issue,” adding that she didn’t think “it’s helpful when the president of the United States weighs in.”

The placement of the mosque two blocks north of where the World Trade Center stood before Sept. 11 has prompted furious debate in recent weeks. Obama broke his silence Friday at the annual White House dinner celebrating Ramadan, stating that America’s “commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

“As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript. “And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”

On Sunday in Los Angeles, Fiorina said she saw the issue differently: “We all support religious freedom – I don’t think that’s what it’s about.”

“I think it’s now about the sensitivities of people who lost loved ones and honestly I think we ought to leave it up to the community of New York to work this through,” Fiorina said. “But it’s, I think, clear at this point that a large number of people from that community support the right for anyone to practice their religion, but are asking for some sensitivity and forbearance.” She added that the sentiments of the families of 9/11 victims—some of whom have spoken out against the mosque—“are paramount.”

A spokesman for Sen. Barbara Boxer, Zachary Coile, said Sunday "As a former local government official, Senator Boxer believes the City of New York has the right to make this decision."

Fiorina spoke to reporters Sunday after touring the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. She spent 45 minutes visiting booths on the trade show floor, quizzing small business owners about how they were faring.



Among them was Larry Capalbo, chief executive of Commerce-based Taylor Freezers of California who was dishing out ice cream. “It’s a rollercoaster ride for us,” Capalbo told Fiorina. “We’re saving our money, we paid down all our debt and we’re investing cautiously so that we’re going to ride out the next downturn – hopefully without having to lose any people.”

Capalbo, who has 109 employees, said he was supporting Fiorina instead of Boxer because he’s “sick of the Democrats taking my money for no good reason.” Fiorina’s economic agenda includes making the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent and offering small businesses a two-year payroll tax holiday if they hire unemployed workers.

To bring down California’s 12.3% unemployment rate, Fiorina said, “We have to start by making it easier for job creators, and right now in the state of California, thanks in large measure to the kinds of policies that Barbara Boxer has supported over many years, we are making it harder and harder and harder.”

But Boxer’s camp noted that Fiorina is opposing pending legislation that would allow the Small Business Administration to guarantee up to 90%  of loans to small businesses, instead of 50% or 75% -- making them more appealing to lenders.

"It's ironic that Fiorina is talking about helping small businesses when she doesn't support the Small Business Jobs Act, which would provide billions in lending and tax credits to small businesses," Boxer’s campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, said.

Fiorina objects to a provision of the bill, which is co-sponsored by Boxer, that would create a fund providing $30 billion to encourage small business lending by community banks. She has said she is concerned the fund would amount to an ineffective government bailout.

-- Maeve Reston in Los Angeles