Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, campaigning for the U.S. Senate on his home turf, charged Saturday that Republican Sen. Pete Wilson stood by while the Reagan Administration exploited the environment, and failed to take steps to halt offshore oil drilling in California.
McCarthy, borrowing a page from the campaign of the Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis, spent the day trying to undermine Wilson’s contention that he has a strong environmental record, an especially important issue here where concerns about pollution of the bay and ocean are paramount.
The lieutenant governor accused Wilson of supporting tuna industry practices that McCarthy said caused the slaughter of dolphins, voting against fuel efficiency standards for cars and failing to “speak out against the Administration’s exploitation of the environment.”
“Some say these people don’t have an energy policy. That’s not true. They do have an energy policy. Their energy policy is drill and waste. Our energy policy must be, for the sake of America, conserve and renew,” McCarthy told a gathering of about 300 environmentalists.
While McCarthy attacked Wilson’s environmental record, Wilson, campaigning in Ventura County Saturday, defended his record on the environment and accused McCarthy of being “miserably weak on crime and drugs.”
Wilson said he held high hopes for passage next week in Congress of an omnibus drug bill that will create a federal death penalty for drug dealers, something McCarthy said on Saturday that he would support.
“I suspect Leo, when pressed, would say he supports that provision. But I doubt seriously, had he been in the Senate, that he would have done much to get the bill passed,” Wilson told a gathering of about 50 people at Republican headquarters in Oxnard.
Wilson also defended his record on offshore drilling, and said McCarthy, as chairman of the state Lands Commission, had voted to approve a lease that opened 40,000 acres to offshore drilling.
“I have been part of a successful bipartisan effort to withstand pressure from my own Administration,” Wilson said. “The difference between me and McCarthy is that I have not simply talked a good game, I have performed.”
Major environmental groups have endorsed McCarthy, even though some members of these groups say Wilson is selectively good on the environment. Chief among those points they say Wilson deserves credit for is his opposition to offshore drilling.
Wilson helped persuade Vice President George Bush last June to soften his stand on oil exploration off California’s coast. Shortly after Bush recommended that the process leading up to drilling be postponed, Interior Secretary Donald Hodel put the process on hold until next year.
McCarthy began the day by appearing with Dukakis at an outdoor pro-environment rally organized by Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Sausalito). Later he sought support--and campaign contributions--from gay political action committees, and fended off a question about his poor showing in polls, which estimate that he trails by 10 to 15 percentage points.