MORAGA — In a bitter debate filled with personal attacks Wednesday night, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer repeatedly slammed Republican rival Carly Fiorina's record as the CEO of tech giant Hewlett-Packard while Fiorina called the veteran Democrat an out-of-touch career politician indifferent to the suffering of ordinary Californians.
The two women also staked out contrasting stands on issues such as abortion rights, the state's climate change law and gun control, with Fiorina defending positions that public opinion polls show are unpopular with many of the state's voters.
Boxer, for her part, entered the debate identified with a Democratic administration suffering from sinking approval ratings and viewed as unable to turn around crippling unemployment.
The 60-minute standoff held at St. Mary's College, which was broadcast statewide, marked the two women's only scheduled debate in a race that polls show is a dead heat.
Boxer lived up to her combative reputation by portraying Fiorina as a callous CEO who outsourced thousands of jobs.
The three-term senator also highlighted Fiorina's opposition to abortion rights and criticism of AB 32, a state law that commits California to cutting greenhouse gases.
"When she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, before she was terminated actually, she shipped 30,000 jobs overseas," Boxer said. "Think about it. That's the size of Foster City. That reminds me of Wall Street. … Bonuses at the top. Pain for everybody else."
Fiorina, who has not run for office before, condemned Boxer's Hewlett-Packard attacks and portrayed the Democrat as a do-nothing senator.
While Fiorina stays tightly on a job-creation message on the campaign trail, Boxer's relentless criticism during the debate forced her to spend precious minutes defending her corporate record.
"I think it's actually a shame," Fiorina said, "that Barbara Boxer would use Hewlett-Packard, a treasure of California, one of the great companies in the world, as a political football."
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