Boxer, Fiorina provide sharp contrast in KPCC debate

Barbara Boxer participating in the debate from NPR's studios in Washington, D.C., and Carly Fiorina at a post-debate press conference at KPCC's studios in Pasadena.
Barbara Boxer participating in the debate from NPR's studios in Washington, D.C., and Carly Fiorina at a post-debate press conference at KPCC's studios in Pasadena.
Jason Reed-Pool & Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and her Republican challenger Carly Fiorina held their second - and probably final - debate Wednesday. Fiorina was in studio with KPCC’s Patt Morrison. Boxer debated from NPR’s studios in Washington, D.C.

The exchange offered an illustration of how Boxer and Fiorina come from opposite ends of the political spectrum on almost every issue. Take federal stimulus spending, for example. Boxer strongly supports it.

“It is creating jobs. I’ve gone all over the state. Our Republican governor says it is creating tens of thousands of jobs and saving others," Boxer said.

Fiorina argues that the hundreds of billions of stimulus dollars the government spent didn’t accomplish much.

“Since the stimulus bill passed, our unemployment has grown from 10.2 percent to 12.4 percent.”

Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard, is a fiscal conservative who wants to extend George W. Bush’s tax cuts and slash regulations. She’d like to repeal the Obama administration’s health care reform law too.

“What we have with this bill now are people are being thrown off their insurance, premiums are rising," she said. Fiorina said she'd favor a more measured approach to health care reform.

In response, Boxer, a three-term incumbent, issued a warning.

“When somebody says repeal and replace, watch out. Because once it’s repealed, you’re not going to see a very quick replacement," Boxer said. "Right now, seniors are getting back $250 to help them with their prescription drugs. Does my opponent want to take their checks away?”

As she has in campaign ads, Boxer criticized Fiorina for laying off 30,000 workers while she took a multi-million dollar salary as chief of Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina accused Boxer of accomplishing little during her nearly three decades as a congresswoman and senator.

Boxer said she wants to provide a way for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become citizens. Fiorina’s said she opposes that, but she refused to say whether they should be deported, when asked about the issue.

“Why don’t you want to confront the question of what to do with 12 to 15 to 20 million unauthorized immigrants in this country," asked La Opinión Editor Gabriel Lerner.

“Gabriel, the reason I do not want to breeze past border security is we have not secured it," Fiorina said.

Border security, Fiorina said, is her priority. She took Boxer to task for voting against guest worker legislation. Boxer said it failed to include a path to legalization.

“One of the newspapers said it was indentured servitude. You work for two years, then you had to leave the country.”

One of the more interesting moments in the debate arose when KPCC’s Patt Morrison pressed Fiorina about her accusations that extremist environmental groups back the incumbent.

Fiorina, after a long pause, offered no names. She said she’s concluded that such groups must be Boxer allies because of her strong support for endangered species in the Sacramento Delta and elsewhere. Later, at a news conference, the Republican still refused to name any groups.

On abortion, Boxer warned that Fiorina wants to see Roe versus Wade overturned.

“Women and doctors could be put in jail in any state in the union.”

Fiorina bristled.

“Barbara Boxer engages frequently in a shocking misrepresentation of my record, but nowhere is that more unconscionable than her continued assertion that I support the criminalization of abortion," Fiorina said. "There are no circumstances under which a woman in California would be denied an abortion.”

In the past, Fiorina has said she wants the U.S. Supreme Court to make abortions illegal. She also has said she would not have a litmus test on the issue for Supreme Court nominees and would not introduce legislation to overturn Roe versus Wade.

One recent poll shows Fiorina trailing Boxer by 8 percentage points. The election is fewer than five weeks away, but vote-by-mail starts next Tuesday.