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Tween Town Hall for Poizner

May 26, 2010 |  6:54 pm

Gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner visited the South Bay ON Wednesday, but his town hall was not made up of the usual supporters or undecided voters that such events tend to attract less than two weeks before election day.

The crowd was mostly made up of 60 students from the nearby St. Anthony School, who were invited by a local councilwoman to take a break from their studies to hear the candidate speak. As they entered the darkened meeting room at the Embassy Suites in El Segundo, most of the students were handed Poizner campaign T-shirts that they wore over their uniforms.

“Were you excited when you heard you didn’t have to go to school today?” Poizner asked. “I’m glad to be of assistance today.”

Such a field trip could cause a conundrum for the Catholic school – many of Poizner’s viewpoints are in direct opposition to the church’s teachings – he supports abortion rights and the death penalty, and he favors Arizona’s tough new immigration law, which has been denounced by prominent Catholics such as Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Principal Georgiana Curcio said she hoped students would gain insight into the political process by attending the event.

“We told them this is not to influence them in anyway,” she said. “We told them this doesn’t mean you have to believe what he believes, and there are other candidates with other opinions.”

Parents signed permission slips for their 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders to attend the event, she added, and not one objected.

Poizner stuck to his usual talking points about cutting taxes, getting the water flowing in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and cracking down on illegal immigration. He avoided one of his laugh lines – about sending whatever group he is talking to (the state Republican convention, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Republican Women Federated) to patrol the border. On Wednesday, he simply pledged to send the National Guard to the border.

A handful of students asked questions that had been pre-approved by their teachers.

Jason Brandlin, 14, asked Poizner whether he agreed with Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul’s controversial statements about whether private businesses should be allowed to discriminate, and whether he would support enacting a law similar to Arizona’s, which allows police to check the immigration status of those they suspect of being in the country illegally, in California.

Poizner said he disagreed with Paul’s statements, but said that he would go further than Arizona’s law by cutting taxpayer-funded benefits to those in the country illegally and revoking the businesses licenses of firms that hire illegal immigrants.

“I do support what they are doing in Arizona,” Poizner said. “I would bring all of that here plus a lot more.”

After the town hall, Brandlin said he was pleased by Poizner’s answers.

“He’s a nice gentleman,” the eighth-grader said. “I think he could do good to this state.”

-- Seema Mehta in El Segundo