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GOP Senate candidates spar in first face-to-face debate

Campbell, DeVore and Fiorina tussle over immigration, the Wall Street bailout and taxes at L.A.'s Museum of Tolerance. The debate will air in California on ABC stations on Sunday.

May 07, 2010|By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times

Fiorina said she knew people who had been on the no-fly list and that the list has been "way too large."

The candidates found much to agree on during Thursday night's forum. All three supported repealing President Obama's healthcare legislation and criticized the Democratic financial reform measure moving through Congress as falling short, in part because it does not address the failures of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

All three also back Arizona's tough new immigration measure, which requires police to ask people they stop about their immigration status if they believe they are in the country illegally.

But Fiorina criticized DeVore's recent statement that police might, for example, have grounds to question a group of men standing around at a Home Depot looking for work, if they looked nervous when approached by police and didn't respond in English.

"I do think extreme rhetoric on both sides of this debate is not helpful," Fiorina said. "We have many men, who perhaps speak Spanish who are looking for work, because we have unemployment in this state above 13%."

Here are some of the more notable exchanges:

Afghanistan:

Both Fiorina and Campbell said they supported the Obama administration's current mission in Afghanistan and said the president should continue to follow the guidance of his generals, including Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, on deployment levels and strategy.

But DeVore, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, said he was troubled by the administration's strategy and that it could take 100 years to try to build a nation in Afghanistan. He said the administration should be more narrowly focused on intelligence-gathering, drone attacks and special forces operations "to continue to remorselessly kill the leadership of those who would seek to harm us."

"We have to prepare for the next enemy, it's not in Afghanistan, it's the People's Republic of China," DeVore said without elaborating.

Later he repeated his challenge to the Afghanistan strategy: "Where is the end game? Are you just proposing that we stay in Afghanistan until they develop a modern economy and a modern democracy?"

Oil drilling:

Earlier this week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger withdrew his support for new wells off the coast of Santa Barbara after monitoring the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but the Republican candidates said their positions on drilling were unchanged.

Fiorina said the spill pointed to potential regulatory problems and that the government needed to investigate what had happened.

"Nevertheless, I believe offshore drilling is absolutely necessary. We must take advantage of every source of energy that we have in this country," she said, adding that "extreme environmentalists" had prevented the U.S. from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge two decades ago.

DeVore said that by saying 'no' to more offshore drilling, Schwarzenegger was consigning California to more foreign oil. "If you don't get it off your own shores you've got to tanker it in, often from nations that hate our guts and use the money that we send them to fund terrorists who are trying to kill us," DeVore said.

Campbell said he had always opposed putting in new drilling platforms off the coast of California but favors slant drilling from the coast.

Global warming:

All three candidates said they favored delaying implementation of AB32, the global-warming legislation signed in 2006 that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Foes of the measure are seeking to place an initiative on the California ballot that would suspend the requirements until the state's unemployment rate drops.

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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