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Lt. governor debate dissolves into a shouting match

A radio debate between the two top candidates running for California lieutenant governor turned into a shouting match Friday as the candidates sparred over education, the environment and immigration.

As in their two previous debates, Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado repeatedly berated Democrat Gavin Newsom for San Francisco's "sanctuary city" policies that he said protected illegal immigrants during Newsom's time as that city's mayor.

But this time Maldonado stepped up his attack, blaming Newsom directly for the 2008 death of Tony Bologna and his two sons, who allegedly were shot by an illegal immigrant and reputed gang member who had been arrested as a juvenile and released.

"Danielle Bologna lost her entire family because Gavin Newsom couldn’t step up to the plate," Maldonado said Friday. "Danielle lost her family because of your policies."

"I’m just distraught," Newsom responded. "It’s a cheap shot."

The confrontational, half-hour debate was broadcast on KPCC. At several points, the moderator tried to stop the candidates from shouting over each other with pleas of "Time out, time out!"

Education was another contentious topic.

Maldonado said he would like to see the University of California and California State University systems invest more in online education, which he said would be a less expensive alternative to building new campuses. Along with other duties, the lieutenant governor sits on the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees.

"I think it’s a way up and a way out for a lot of people who can’t afford to go to a campus," Maldonado said of online classes.

"I think we can do a lot better than just going for an online education," Newsom interrupted.  He blamed Maldonado for casting the key vote for the 2009 state budget, which included cuts to education.

"Abel, I think, with respect, that you represent the last 10 years of educational failure in the state of California," Newsom said.

"If you want to talk about failure, let’s go to the city of San Francisco," Maldonado shot back.

Maldonado went on to criticize San Francisco's budget, including its allocation of several hundred thousand dollars to groups that work with transgender people.

"Attacking the transgender community and going for the lowest-common-denominator cheap shots is not going to get people educated in this state," Newsom said.

When the discussion turned to the environment, Newsom chided Maldonado for voting against AB 32, the state's landmark law to combat global warming.

Maldonado responded by accusing Newsom of having money invested in Transocean Inc., the drilling company that leased to BP the oil rig that ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

According to a financial disclosure statement, a trust controlled by Newsom's wife invested between $10,000 and $100,000 in Transocean Inc.

Friday's debate probably was the last before the Nov. 2 election.

In his closing statement, Maldonado touted his accomplishments since being nominated to the lieutenant governor post this spring. When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger left the state for a trade mission rip to Asia in September, Maldonado signed a $1.2-billion education bill and a series of government reform measures in Bell. 

Newsom, in his closing remarks, emphasized a fact that was, by that point, quite clear. 

"We have a very different point of view on the fate and future of this state," he said.  
 
-- Kate Linthicum

 
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