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California and the West | CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / ATTORNEY
GENERAL

Lockyer, Stirling Clash on Marijuana, Political Donations

October 13, 1998|DAN MORAIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The candidates for California attorney general tangled Monday over medical marijuana, campaign donations and the enforcement of laws against pollution and consumer fraud.

In a debate on KCET-TV (Channel 28), Republican Chief Deputy Atty. Gen. Dave Stirling characterized his Democratic foe, state Sen. Bill Lockyer, as a "1960s Bay Area liberal."

Lockyer countered by citing endorsements he has received from some county district attorneys, police chiefs and labor organizations that represent police officers.

Lockyer then tagged Stirling as "dime on the dollar Dave," charging that Stirling, as top aide to incumbent Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, settled major state-filed lawsuits over consumer fraud and pollution for small amounts.

Stirling insisted that his record on consumer fraud and pollution is strong, but said: "We must be very careful when we go after business. . . . Otherwise we're going to make it very difficult for people in business."

The office Stirling and Lockyer seek is one of the most powerful in state government, perhaps second only to governor. In addition to representing local prosecutors in criminal appeals, the California attorney general has broad power to enforce laws against consumer fraud, antitrust violations, pollution and discrimination.

The wide-ranging debate, sponsored by KCET and the California District Attorneys Assn., aired Monday night on the public station's "Life and Times" show.

One of the more marked differences came over Proposition 215, the initiative approved by voters in 1996 that sought to allow ill people to obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Lockyer voted for the measure, he said, because his mother and sister died of leukemia. He accused Stirling and Lungren of doing "all they could" to keep marijuana from ill people who believe they need it.

Stirling said that he opposed the initiative and that there should be further study of whether marijuana actually helps with some conditions. Like Lockyer, he said the law should be improved to ensure that those who truly need marijuana could obtain it.

At another point in the debate, Stirling took credit for the decline in the state's crime rate, saying that he helped write the three-strikes sentencing law, as well as laws aimed at child molesters and criminals who use guns in the commission of crimes.

"I happen to believe prisons are a good investment," said Stirling, who has been Lungren's chief deputy since Lungren, who is running for governor, took office in 1991.

Stirling, responding to a question about large numbers of minorities behind bars, said the state must "address conditions that cause them to commit crime." But he said he doesn't believe "there is any racial bias" on the part of police and prosecutors.

"Whatever their race," Lockyer said, "we have to be vigorous about prosecuting crime." But Lockyer also called for more job training and drug treatment in prison to help criminals reform themselves.

Lockyer has been a legislator since 1973. As president pro tem of the state Senate for four years ending earlier this year, Lockyer was one of the most powerful officials in the state.

Lockyer noted that he has supported capital punishment throughout his career, and cited a legislation he has carried to speed death penalty appeals, impose harsher sentences on molesters, and overhaul the justice system.

Stirling attacked Lockyer for taking money from the tobacco industry, although Lockyer has not taken tobacco contributions during his run for attorney general.

Lockyer responded by pointing out that the powerful state prison guards union has endorsed Stirling, and charged that the attorney general's office failed to adequately investigate alleged brutality by prison officers at Corcoran State Prison, where 50 inmates were wounded or shot to death by guards since the prison opened in 1988.

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