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Boxer, Fiorina clash in senatorial debate

In the first senatorial debate of California’s 2010 election season, Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina faced off in a televised debate held on the campus of St. Mary’s College in Moraga, near Oakland.

The debate was broadcast locally on KMPH Fox 26 and streamed live on KTVU, among other sources. The event began at 7 p.m. and ended around 8, Sept. 1.

Sen. Boxer has served three terms in the U.S. Senate and five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Fiorina, who has no political experience prior to this election, is best known for being the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

Opening statements initiate debate

Although Boxer’s campaign had won a coin toss to initiate the debate, the senator let her challenger open up. For 90 seconds Fiorina discussed her past and reasons for running for office, then went on the offensive against Boxer.

In Boxer’s opening statement, she cited her record in the U.S. Senate, highlighting her role in after-school programs, support for veterans, doubling transportation funding, creating jobs and promoting clean energy. Her introduction ended with a few jabs at Fiorina.

Following the opening statements, a panel consisting of three Bay area journalists began to pose questions to either of the candidates. The addressed candidate got up to 90 seconds to answer, and the other got up to 60 seconds for a rebuttal.

Jobs, the economy

The first question concerned one of the key issues in this election: jobs. The debaters discussed their views on job creation bills, tax cuts, ways to fix the economic situation and cited unemployment figures.

“If ever we needed a United States senator from California to fight for American jobs, it’s now,” Boxer said, going on to assert that Fiorina had shipped thousands of jobs overseas.

In response to concerns about her multimillion-dollar contracts, Fiorina maintained that her salaries were determined by HP’s shareholders.

“During my time at HP, I ripped up my employment contract and put my pay up for shareholder vote,” Fiorina said, adding, “I think it’s actually a shame that Barbara Boxer would use HP, a treasure of California … I think it’s a shame that she would use that company as a political football.”

Perspectives on military

One question centered on President Barack Obama’s declaration to end the combat mission in Iraq. The journalist who posed the question asked whether the Iraq War was worth its cost, and inquired about the candidates’ proposals for Afghanistan.

“I believe in nation-helping, not nation-building,” Boxer said to the audience, emphasizing the necessity of timetables for bringing the troops home. “I don’t think this is a matter of partisanship, it’s a matter of our troops.”

Fiorina criticized Boxer for voting against measures which would benefit the military. However, Boxer replied that she is proud of her track record on the military and maintained her support for the armed forces.

“My husband served in the military, so I love the military in a very personal way,” Boxer said.

Records, reasons for running

Instead of the panel of journalists, a Democratic man from Oakland posed the next question. He asked Boxer why she is running for another term when she could let someone else work in Washington.

“Our founders decided to put the power in the hands of the people,” Boxer answered. “And the people have to vote. I am in the U.S. Senate. Why? Because I fight for people, I fight for the dream.”

In her answer, Boxer emphasized Fiorina’s history of laying off workers as CEO of HP. Fiorina used her rebuttal to attack Boxer’s record in the Senate.

“I think one of the things that voters believe is that results count,” Fiorina said, claiming that Boxer has authored only four bills during her 18 years in the Senate.

Civil rights

One of the journalists on the panel inquired about Fiorina’s stance on Proposition 8 and gay rights. The candidate replied that she adheres to the traditional definition of marriage-one man and one woman-but supports civil unions for same-sex couples, adding, “I support very much the repeal of ‘don’t Ask, don’t tell.'”

A panelist directed another question at Fiorina, asking about her stance on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

“I am pro-life because of my personal experiences,” Fiorina said, describing how her husband’s mother was advised to abort him. She added: “I am comfortable with federal funding for adult stem cell research, which shows more promise according to many scientists.”

However, Boxer used her rebuttal to explain her reasoning for being pro-choice amid varying viewpoints on abortion.

“That’s why I’m pro-choice: I let people decide. It’s about the women and the families of our state and of our country,” she said.

Climate change

One of the panelists inquired about Fiorina’s position on climate change and her stance on Proposition 23, the ballot initiative to overturn Assembly Bill 32.

“The only way to impact global warming is to act globally; a state working alone will make no difference,” Fiorina said, declining to take a position on Prop. 23. “My focus is on a national energy policy.”

Party ties

A journalist’s question concerned each candidate’s partisanship. Although Fiorina said that “she [Boxer] is one of the most bitterly partisan members of the U.S. Senate,” Boxer defended herself by citing her sponsorship of Republican bills and her divergence with President Obama’s policies on Afghanistan.

In response to a question about how Democrats have blamed the Bush Administration for current economic woes, Boxer said that she and Congress are “taking action” to resolve the crisis.

“We’re taking responsibility and we’re taking action. I talked about a number of those things that we’ve already done,” citing a bill to save teachers’ jobs and the benefits of the Economic Recovery Act. “Job by job by job, we are going to solve it.”

Election looms

To conclude the debate, each candidate gave a two-minute closing statement and attempted to sway voters.

Sen. Boxer and Fiorina will face off in the general election, Nov. 2, for the U.S. Senate seat.

For more information on the debate, read the San Jose Mercury News article, Boxer, Fiorina trade political jabs in senatorial debate.

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    Michael OgdonMar 23, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I really enjoyed the choir enjoying their own singing today. Confident, dynamic, blended… it sounded great. I think that the concert will be that much better because of the hallway rehearsal.

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    Alexandra BarisicMar 23, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I thought this was such a fun idea. In the office, Mrs. Regnerus, Mrs. Warkentin and I were a bit confused as to what the choir was doing, but when they all lined up we got a pretty good idea. It was a nice thing that made today unique. It was also pretty funny to see Mr. Stobbe dash to get the camera in order to have Ashlyn capture pictures.

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