By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sen. Barbara Boxer used a gathering of local Democrats Saturday to hone her campaign message, stressing that her record on the environment, jobs and abortion rights makes her to the go-to candidate this November in a tightly contested Senate race.
In a quick appearance at a barbecue put on by the Sonoma County Democratic Party at Doyle Park, the three-term California senator and former congresswoman from Marin County took aim at her Republican opponent, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
She said Fiorina represented “a return to the failed policies of George W. Bush,” citing the former president’s handling of the Iraq War, his support for oil drilling and his responsibility for the economic woes that occurred on his watch.
“My opponent wants to go back to those days,” she said. “Which is so yesterday.”
The comment, which drew laughs and applause from the crowd of about 200, was a jab at Fiorina’s off-microphone comment during a June television interview when she said Boxer’s hair was “so yesterday.”
The barbecue, now in it’s fourth year, served as a kick-off to the campaign season and drew dozens of local Democratic party leaders, elected officials and candidates.
Boxer’s visit marked the second high-profile campaign event in Santa Rosa within a week. Jerry Brown, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state attorney general, spoke to hundreds of party faithful Wednesday night at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Hall.
Saturday’s casual outdoor event featured live music, hearty plates of food and plenty of campaign buttons, bumper stickers and signs.
Several local candidates gave quick rallying speeches before and after Boxer’s appearance.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane noted Saturday was the 47th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“Today Democrats are about fulfilling that dream,” Zane said, without mentioning Saturday’s large tea party rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the same site where King gave his speech.
“We need to be unabashed liberals,” Zane added. “About jobs. About immigration. About education. About health care.”
Boxer’s stump speech, while emphasizing the need for job creation, also stuck to popular subjects among North Bay Democrats: support for environmental protection and abortion rights.
Fiorina “is against the regulation of climate change; she doesn’t believe it exists,” Boxer said. “And she’s against a woman’s right to choose. She wants to go back to yesterday.”
The Fiorina campaign quickly fired back.
“Barbara Boxer is so desperate to distract voters from her 34-year career as a politician supporting job-killing policies, including $1 trillion in higher taxes and sky-high debt, that she will say or do anything to distort Carly’s record of success as a proven business leader,” said Andrea Saul, the campaign’s press secretary.
A poll last week by Rasmussen Reports found the two candidates in a dead heat, with Boxer leading 44 percent to Fiorina’s 43 percent among likely voters.
“We’ve got a job ahead of us,” Boxer said to the crowd Saturday, thanking them for help on the campaign trail before heading off to another event in Mendocino. “Will you help us send a message on Election Day?”