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Document shows Poizner reversed course on public services for illegal immigrants [Updated]

June 3, 2010 |  3:25 pm

Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner has said his experience in Sacramento as insurance commissioner has "crystallized" his thinking as a conservative. A document obtained by The Times shows that Poizner, who in past campaigns described himself as a moderate, has apparently shifted far more than previously reported. It shows that he took generally liberal positions on matters unrelated to the world of insurance, from support of needle exchanges to a suggestion that he backed reparations to African Americans for slavery.

A memo marked "Confidential" and "Draft," the document was compiled by longtime Poizner aide Jesse Huff for the 2006 insurance commissioner's race and summarized positions the candidate had taken for his losing 2004 Assembly run using questionnaires he had filled out that year for various interest groups.

Poizner earned a 100% rating in 2004 from the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice California for his answers on its survey, according to Amy Everitt, the group's state director. According to the summary of those positions obtained by The Times, Poizner told NARAL that he would oppose restrictions on using state funding for prenatal care or abortion services for undocumented women. This year, a main campaign theme has been ending such services for illegal immigrants. His answer also undercuts Poizner's contention that in 1994 -- 10 years before filling out NARAL's questionnaire – he supported Proposition 187, the ballot initiative to take away most public services from illegal immigrants.

The document shows that Poizner told NARAL in 2004 that he would also oppose state legislation banning late-term abortions, oppose prohibitions on abortion services at public facilities and oppose the provision of public funding for "stealth anti-choice clinics" known as crisis pregnancy centers. He promised to protect a young woman's right to have an abortion without notification of her parents, but today says he backs an initiative to require parental notification.

Though he and his primary opponent Meg Whitman both say they are pro-choice, they've each been attempting to use abortion as a wedge issue with conservatives. Whitman has used Poizner's past surveys to say he is in favor of "partial birth abortion," a conservative name for late-term abortion procedures, while he has attacked her for backing public funding of abortion.

Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen said the candidate was being attacked by groups including Planned Parenthood, which also gave him a 100% rating in 2004, because "they disagree with the policies that Steve would implement as governor to drive the number of abortions down to zero." Everitt, of NARAL, who previously worked with Poizner on an education advocacy group, criticized Whitman in particular for attacking him on positions similar to those she has claimed to hold.

The summary of his 2004 positions says Poizner told BAYMEC, a group representing the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, that he opposed a constitutional ban on gay marriage, though he has said he voted for Proposition 8 in 2008, which imposed just that.

He told BAYMEC that he supports current law, "which gives communities the right to implement a needle exchange program if they so choose." Asked by the NAACP about reparations for African Americans, Poizner said that "any individual who suffers documented harm and discrimination for their racial affiliation deserves justice," Huff's summary said. He also told the group he would support a moratorium on the death penalty "in cases where there are evident abuses of the system."

[Updated June 4 at 2:32 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misstated the name of the group on whose questionnaire Poizner expressed support for needle exchanges and omitted the word "documented" from his answer to an NAACP question about reparations.]

-- Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento

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