Sen. Barbara Boxer, in the toughest reelection battle she has faced in decades, on Saturday painted her Republican opponent Carly Fiorina as an extremist on environmental issues who supports new offshore oil drilling.
“It has always been one of my goals, ever since I was a county supervisor, to make sure we protect the gifts like these that I consider a gift from God,” Boxer said, standing on a makeshift platform on the beach in Santa Monica as waves crashed and cyclists and runners passed in the background. “Anyone who says they are ready, willing and able to destroy this coastline does not understand really what our work is as human beings: to protect this God-given legacy, number one, and to protect the 400,000 jobs” tied to the California coast.
Boxer, who is narrowly leading Fiorina in the polls, has been highlighting policy distinctions about issues such as oil drilling, abortion and guns in an effort to increase her support. According to a May poll by the Los Angeles Times and USC, about 50% of surveyed Californians oppose new drilling, while 43% support it.
In addition to such issues, Boxer emphasized Fiorina’s ties to conservative icons such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The former GOP vice presidential candidate played a critical role in Fiorina’s primary victory, blunting opponents by endorsing the former Hewlett-Packard chief, but is deeply unpopular with the independent voters who could decide the race.
“So when my opponent says, ‘Drill baby drill,’ yes, it won her the endorsement of Sarah Palin, but I have something to say very clearly today: Sarah Palin does not speak for California,” Boxer said, standing alongside actors Dennis Haysbert, Hector Elizondo and Valerie Harper.
She highlighted Fiorina’s support of a November ballot measure that would halt the state’s landmark global-warming law to say that the GOP Senate candidate is out of step with voters.
“You’re known by the people you walk with, right? My opponent walks with Karl Rove,” she said, and the dozens of supporters gathered outside Perry’s Beach Cafe booed. “I thought you’d say that. My opponent walks with the far right, and with big oil and dirty coal. And my opponent is the only major statewide candidate to endorse Prop. 23. We will defeat Prop. 23 and we will keep California marching forward.”
Boxer discounted polls and political analysts who say the three-term senator is in jeopardy of losing her seat, and that Republicans are likely to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and possibly the Senate.
“I don’t buy into any of this. The pundits have decided the Democrats are all going to lose all over the country and I just don’t believe it. I think if the people vote and they realize what the choice is in each of their states, we’ll win a lot more seats than people say,” she told reporters after the news conference. “I don’t buy into any of these predictions. Talk to me the day after Election Day.”
But moments earlier, she exhorted supporters to volunteer for her, saying their actions could decide whether she is reelected.
“This is what I need you to do. If you can give another five bucks, do it. Right now I need you to volunteer,” she said. “If you put in 30 minutes a day calling, getting people to the polls, we have the list, it’s going to make the difference.”
[Updated at 2:10 p.m.: A Fiorina spokeswoman said the GOP Senate hopeful believes decisions about new offshore drilling should be left up to Californians, and threw in a dig about the Democrat’s past investment in an oil company.
“As Barbara Boxer attempts to change the subject away from jobs and out-of-control government spending -- the issues voters are focused on -- the career politician shows just how out of touch she is and reaches a new height of hypocrisy, even for her, as she invested as much as $150,000 of her family’s money in Diamond Offshore Drilling,” said Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Fiorina.]
-- Seema Mehta in Santa Monica