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California and the West | CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / U.S.

Boxer and Fong Swap Insults, Taxation Views


The two major candidates for U.S. Senate stressed their conflicting views of taxation and economic growth Tuesday and exchanged some insults.

Much of the campaign day was spent with Republican candidate Matt Fong attempting to control the political damage inflicted by scalding criticism from his better-funded opponent, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

"My opponent is out there slashing us on tax reform, [saying] that I'm a candidate for the rich, that I'm out there to try to lower taxes on the rich and put them on the backs of the poor," Fong said at an Irvine fund-raiser. "That's an outrageous characterization of my position, and Barbara Boxer should be ashamed."

At about the same time, Boxer was standing on the steps of a middle-class home in the Glenn Park area of San Francisco, doing precisely what Fong had predicted: attacking him over his support of a flat tax to replace the graduated income tax.

"This is like Robin Hood in reverse," Boxer said. "You're taking from the poor and middle class and giving to the top 1%."

Outspent 2-to-1 and unable to match Boxer's television advertising, the Fong campaign Tuesday began a radio and television ad featuring Fong's mother, March Fong Eu, a Democrat and state officeholder for 30 years.

Referring to Fong as "a good son," the 76-year-old Eu says Boxer should be ashamed for running a campaign "full of lies and distortion."

While Fong deployed his mother in his defense, Boxer reached out to two fellow Democrats, former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley and state Controller Kathleen Connell, to support her criticism of the flat tax.

"This is a proposal that is flawed, that on closer examination does not serve the broad base of the American public," Bradley said.

Homeowner Bob Mills stepped to the podium carrying his 5-year-old daughter. A flat tax could threaten the $500-per-child tax deduction approved just last year, he said, "and frankly, that is money we just don't have."

At a recycling plant in Fontana, Fong said Boxer has spread "her own special brand of the politics of fear" with television commercials blasting him as uncaring about the environment and ready to turn a blind eye to pollution.

Also on Tuesday, Fong tried to minimize damage done by a newspaper story that revealed his $50,000 contribution from unused campaign funds to the Orange County-based Traditional Values Coalition. The group lobbies against abortion and gay rights and helped block the nomination of gay San Francisco businessman James Hormel for an ambassadorial appointment.

Fong made the contribution shortly before the group's leader, the Rev. Louis Sheldon, began helping him in his bid to win the Republican primary over Vista car alarm magnate Darrell Issa.

On Tuesday, the Fong campaign sent a letter to the Log Cabin Club, a nationwide group of gay Republicans, restating the candidate's support for hate-crimes legislation, increased AIDS research funding and laws banning discrimination against gays in housing and employment--all positions he has stated during the campaign.

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