Attorney general debate: Kamala Harris, Steve Cooley clash


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Kamala Harris and Steve Cooley exchanged harsh words in a spirited first debate Tuesday, the only scheduled face-off between the two major-party candidates for California attorney general.

Republican Cooley focused on Harris’ refusal to seek the death penalty for the killer of a San Francisco police officer. And Democrat Harris criticized Cooley for his refusal to take a position on Proposition 23, the November ballot measure that would repeal the state’s greenhouse-gas law.


Cooley also took a swipe at Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown for championing local control on the campaign trail, even as he pursued legal action against cities for violating state environmental laws.

The debate covered a wide range of issues, including marijuana legalization, gay marriage, the federal healthcare law, as well as the state prisons.

Harris said that state officials ‘must comply’ with mandates handed down by three federal judges who were currently holding the state’s prison system in receivership. Cooley said he would fight the judges’ recommendations to the state’s highest court.

‘The experience with these panels and these recommendations is they are very costly, often very ineffective, and I would appeal the decisions of the three-judge panel all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,’ he said.

And Cooley said he would not hesitate to collect his local pension if he were elected attorney general. The attorney general makes about half of what Cooley currently collects as Los Angeles district attorney.

‘I’ve definitely earned any pension rights I have,’ the candidate said.

When asked for a response, Harris said with a laugh, ‘Go for it, Steve. You’ve earned it; there’s no question.’


Live coverage of the debate is available here.

-- Anthony York in Davis, Calif.