Boxer opens her campaign with an emphasis on jobs

Wasting no time as she formally kicked off her general election campaign, California Sen. Barbara Boxer argued Tuesday that she was the “proven fighter” for jobs in California, and she castigated opponent Carly Fiorina as a failed chief executive whose views are “about as far right as you can get.”

In the first day of a two-day barnstorming tour that will cover nine stops from Stockton to San Diego, Boxer jetted up and down the California Coast on Tuesday in a chartered Gulfstream G-3 jet.

The Democratic incumbent highlighted her plans to create jobs by ushering federal dollars to transportation projects in California, aiding the expansion of the clean energy economy through tax incentives and ending tax breaks for companies that send American jobs overseas.

Over three terms in the Senate, Boxer said, she has shown California voters she can deliver.

“You tell me what you need; you prove it to me; we work together; we get it done,” Boxer said at her first stop, a construction site in San Francisco’s Presidio where $122 million in federal stimulus funds are being spent to help shore up a seismically unsound roadway overlooking the bay. “If ever California needed a fighter for them, it’s now. And I am here to say I am that fighter.”

As she dashed from the Bay Area to Sylmar, San Diego and Santa Barbara, Boxer repeatedly compared her backing for jobs-focused legislation like the Economic Recovery Act with Fiorina’s rocky tenure at Hewlett Packard.

At several points, Boxer argued that the Republican senate nominee “almost broke the back of a great company” by laying off 30,000 workers and sending jobs overseas. Fiorina, who headed the firm between 1999 and 2005, has said she did what was necessary to help the company survive the dot-com bust.

Boxer also sharply criticized Fiorina’s opposition to the stimulus bill, which was narrowly approved in early 2009. She suggested that if her opponent had been in the Senate at that time, thousands of jobs would have been threatened.

“Carly Fiorina never fought for our families; she never tried to,” Boxer said in San Francisco. “If she had been in the Senate instead of me, the Economic Recovery Act would not have passed and these people would not have their jobs,” she said, gesturing to workers in hard hats behind her.

After meeting with small-business owners in San Diego, Boxer also faulted Fiorina for opposing recent legislation that would have reinstated unemployment benefits for Americans who have been out of work for more than six months. (Fiorina said she supported the unemployment provisions in the bill, but could not back the legislation without spending cuts to cover the cost). Boxer cast Fiorina’s position as evidence that she is out of touch with average voters, noting that she received $21 million in severance when she was fired from HP in 2005.

“We need people with a heart in the Senate at this time,” Boxer said.

Fiorina’s campaign mocked the campaign trip as “the broken promise tour” and argued that the stimulus package has scarcely made a dent in California’s 12.4% unemployment rate. Fiorina’s spokeswoman Andrea Saul called Boxer’s record in the Senate “an abject failure.”

“Boxer backed an $862-billion failed stimulus plan at taxpayer’s expense that has not delivered the help and hope she promised,” Saul said. Fiorina, she added, is “the only candidate in this race who has actually created jobs and understands first-hand how to get Californians back to work.”

Although Boxer is well known across California, she is playing catch-up with Fiorina on the campaign front. Fiorina has maintained a heavy campaign schedule and spent millions of dollars on television advertising to introduce herself to voters. Boxer has been largely absent until now because of obligations in Washington.

Several recent polls have shown a close race between Fiorina and Boxer, but the senator said that was not surprising given the anti-incumbent tenor of the season and the relentless criticism of her record by Fiorina and her two Republican opponents during the primary.

“I’ve never been in a campaign where I have been beat up on for at least four or five months straight,” Boxer said. “So the fact that we’ve been holding on as we have has been good, because I’m just starting today really to pose the choice.”