SAN FRANCISCO -- Ordinarily, a Democrat might kick off a campaign tour in the idyllic Presidio park using eucalyptus and pine trees as an environmental backdrop, away from the bustling freeway.
But in the midst of high unemployment, Sen. Barbara Boxer chose the Doyle Drive roadway as the visual to launch her two-day "Jobs for California" tour. "Jobs" is the buzzword of the 2010 election cycle, and politicians from the State Capitol to Capitol Hill have used it incessantly.
The road, part of the Highway 101 approach from the Golden Gate Bridge, is undergoing a massive $1 billion seismic retrofitting project, with $100 million in federal stimulus funds. Boxer was joined by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and stood in front of cranes and more than two dozen construction workers wearing fluorescent construction vests and hard hats.
Boxer is in the toughest re-election fight of her Senate career, facing GOP challenger Carly Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO who loaned her primary campaign $5.5 million and is campaigning on an anti-incumbent message. Boxer, who reported having $9.6 million in cash on hand in May, has enjoyed fundraising help from President Barack Obama and will host Vice President Joe Biden later this week for fundraising and campaigning in California.
Boxer spent most of her San Francisco stop highlighting her support of the 2009 federal stimulus package, which she said helped produce jobs for workers at sites such as Doyle Drive. She was introduced by a grading superintendent, one of the many union workers at the press conference.
"These are the jobs that are getting California moving again," Boxer said. "This bad economy didn't happen overnight. The seeds of it were planted year after year after year ... wrong priorities year after year after year."
Boxer then laid out what she called her three-point "California Jobs Plan." She said she wants to focus on clean energy jobs, transportation jobs and blocking tax breaks for companies that rely on overseas labor.
Boxer attacked Fiorina for opposing the stimulus package, which has a price tag of $862 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Fiorina said last week on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the federal stimulus package had been a failure, according to the Associated Press. The GOP candidate said it would have been better to offer tax breaks to companies that hire unemployed workers.
"She opposes the economic recovery act that put these good people to work," Boxer said. "The act that our Republican governor says has saved or created 150,000 jobs. She opposes these jobs, the jobs of the people standing right beside us. And if she had been in the Senate instead of me, the economic recovery act would not have passed."
When asked later about the borrowing required to pay for the stimulus act, as well as the nation's deficit problems, Boxer said the nation should spend on a "pay-as-you-go" basis, except for emergencies, comparable to rules under the Clinton administration.
She also said ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would save money. As for taxes, she said she would maintain tax cuts passed under the Bush administration for those earning less than $250,000.
Fiorina's campaign lobbed back this afternoon at Boxer's emphasis on jobs.
"The only job Barbara Boxer is focused on saving is her own," Fiorina's press secretary Andrea Saul said in an e-mailed statement. "After more than three decades as a career politician, Boxer has a record of abject failure for the people of California that begins with voting for more than a trillion dollars in tax increases, a decrease in the amount of federal funding coming back for California, and record high debt that Californians will have to foot the bill for decades to come."
PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer kicks off her campaign swing today at a construction site in San Francisco. Mayor Gavin Newsom is in the background on the left. Paul Sakuma/ Associated Press