Seeking Latino votes, Harris attacks rival Cooley over his allies
With polls showing a tight race for attorney general, Democratic nominee Kamala Harris continued her drumbeat of attacks on her Republican rival Steve Cooley on partisan issues Monday, this time taking him on for his allies.
During a Harris news conference near Olvera Street in Los Angeles, Dolores Huerta, who nearly 50 years ago co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, criticized the Los Angeles County district attorney for naming former Gov. Pete Wilson as one of his campaign chairs.
Huerta called Wilson “anathema" to Latinos because of his support for the 1994 California measure, Proposition 187, that would have denied taxpayer-financed services to illegal immigrants, as well as his backing of voter initiatives to ban bilingual education and affirmative action.
“I would have thought Steve Cooley would have been more respectful of the Latino community and not hooking up with someone like Pete Wilson," said Huerta, who endorsed Harris and praised her efforts to bring new ideas to law enforcement, including a program to reduce recidivism rates among criminal offenders.
Harris’ “Back on Track” program, which diverts some nonviolent offenders into job training instead of sending them to prison, came under fire last year for accepting illegal immigrants. Harris called it an inadvertent “glitch" that has been corrected.
Cooley campaign spokesman Kevin Spillane criticized Huerta’s comments about Wilson’s support as “guilt by association" and said the former governor is part of Cooley’s broad coalition of support that crosses party, racial and ethnic lines.
“She’s trying to change the focus of the campaign from law enforcement issues to social issues, liberal social issues," Spillane said. “It’s a sign that they have nowhere else to go."
Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, has stepped up attacks on Cooley on a variety of issues in recent weeks. She criticized him for refusing to take a position on Proposition 23, which would suspend the state's global warming statute. Cooley has declined to take a position on the measure, saying he wanted to remain neutral in case he has to defend the proposition in court.
The Harris campaign also questioned Cooley’s position on abortion, pointing out that the Republican declined to respond to a questionnaire from a pro-choice organization. Spillane dismissed the effort, saying Cooley has always been pro-choice.
On Monday, Harris again accused Cooley of pledging to join the 13-state lawsuit against President Obama’s healthcare plan. The Cooley campaign denied it, saying the GOP candidate would not try to overturn the plan.
However, Cooley might challenge certain provisions –- such as unfunded mandates passed down to the states –- but only if there is a consensus among California’s political leaders, including the governor and legislative leadership, Spillane said
-- Phil Willon