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Boxer Fires Up Bid for Reelection

March 17, 2004|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — With a smooth bay and pristine blue sky as her backdrop, Barbara Boxer launched her bid for reelection to the U.S. Senate in her political backyard Tuesday, describing the race against former California Secretary of State Bill Jones as "the clearest choice we've had for a long ... time."

Boxer, a Democrat whose political career began more than 30 years ago in nearby Marin County, told about 80 backers that Jones sought to join the slim Senate GOP majority to "continue policies that are bringing so much anxiety to so many."

Boxer cited jobs and economic insecurity, education, healthcare, the environment and civil rights as the dominant issues in voters' minds. She said Jones' voting record in the state Assembly -- before he became secretary of state -- placed him at odds with most Californians. She specifically cited his past stances against abortion rights and gun control and in support of offshore oil drilling.

"It's nothing personal, but you're either on the side of the people or you're not," said Boxer, who is seeking a third term. "On issue after issue, my opponent's record and positions are far on the wrong side."

Her morning appearance at San Francisco's World Trade Club initiated a three-day tour of the state that included stops Tuesday at the Fire House Museum near Olvera Street in L.A., Chavez Elementary School in San Diego and an evening fundraiser in Sacramento. Today, she plans to campaign through the Central Valley, before finishing up Thursday in Monterey Park.

Boxer, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, sought to cast the race as a choice between someone who "believes, in terms of values and views, what the majority of Californians believe in," and a GOP candidate "who has a record of being so far to the right even the Republicans will disagree with him."

Her attempt to paint Jones as too extreme echoed his efforts against her last week, in his own post-primary tour of Fresno, Sacramento and Redding.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Jones dismissed Boxer's characterizations of him as the "same tired criticisms that she trots out every time she runs for office, primarily because she can't run on her own record."

Jones, speaking from Salinas, said his successful campaigns for secretary of state -- the last one winning endorsements from most of the state's major newspapers -- proved that he had centrist appeal.

And he criticized Boxer for what he said was a record of voting against defense and security measures and wage hikes for military personnel, and a failure to pursue policies that would help California build new sources for fuel necessitated by dramatic population growth.

"At some point, we will get past guns, oil and the abortion issue that she continually brings up and talk about the fact that she has not been there to support a national defense infrastructure," Jones said. "She goes back with the same tired rhetoric on these wedge issues, but she can't deliver for the people of California, and I will."

With more than seven months to go before the Nov. 2 general election, Boxer holds a commanding lead over Jones in polls, and in fundraising. She has more than $5 million on hand, and plans to raise and spend $20 million to $25 million by November, campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said.

Jones, who won the state GOP primary March 2, had little more than $200,000 on hand in February, when the last financial reports were filed.

Boxer spent $14 million in 1998 to defeat former state Treasurer Matt Fong. She was first elected to the Senate in 1992, when she beat conservative Republican Bruce Herschensohn.

In her appearances Tuesday, Boxer made it clear that she is running against Bush administration policies, even as she sought to show that she could work with Republicans.

She cited such bipartisan legislative efforts as including after-school care programs in the No Child Left Behind bill, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan to defend commercial air flights against shoulder-fired missiles, and increasing funding for international AIDS/HIV programs.

At the same time, Boxer went on the offensive against Jones, trying to force him to defend his Assembly voting record on a host of social issues.

"It's no surprise that special interests and the far right are already backing our opponent," Boxer said. "They are already distorting my record and trying to turn me into something I am not. But I have a message for them: I am not afraid of you."

She described Jones as a potential threat to abortion rights, which she said should be a matter for a woman to decide with advice from her family and doctor. Jones opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or the endangerment of a mother's life.

"We don't think government belongs in that, but my opponent, he has a completely different view," Boxer said, speaking near downtown Los Angeles. She referred to the role the Senate would play in confirming any Supreme Court nominee, should a vacancy occur.

"With choice hanging in the balance, do you think an anti-choice candidate deserves to be promoted and go to the United States Senate?" she asked.

Boxer chose to start her reelection effort at the World Trade Club, a private nonprofit group that promotes overseas commerce -- one of the factors that has led to a drain of U.S. jobs that Boxer decried as "just plain wrong."

Campaign manager Kapolczynski said the site was chosen because it was convenient for people to stop by on their way to work.

"It occurred to us" that the setting might send a mixed signal, but Boxer "supports trade, just fair trade," Kapolczynski said. And although foreign trade has been problematic for manufacturing jobs, it has been crucial to California agribusinesses, she added.

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