Two Republicans hoping to replace Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer debated in her former home turf of Marin County on Wednesday, but the combatants in the only Senate primary debate scheduled for the Bay Area spent a lot of time talking about two women who weren't there: Boxer and their GOP rival, Carly Fiorina.
Former South Bay Rep. Tom Campbell and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, both blasted Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, for declining an invitation to attend. Fiorina, who also skipped a debate last month in Southern California because she said she didn't trust the moderator to be fair, spent the day campaigning in the Central Valley and Salinas, where she touted her endorsement by the 81,000-member California Farm Bureau. She plans to attend a televised debate next month in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile in San Rafael, at an event sponsored by the Marin Conservative Forum, Campbell and DeVore entertained a boisterous audience of 275 people like a couple of familiar friends, starting moments before the 90-minute debate when they mugged for photos DeVore shot of the two of them on his cell phone. Minutes later, Campbell said, "I think it's time to compare our Constitutions," then they pulled out the pocket-size Constitution each carries and the audience roared.
They mentioned their missing rivals nearly a dozen times in the debate's first 10 minutes, with Campbell noting that a national magazine had named Fiorina one of the worst CEOs in American history. "Perhaps that's the reason she didn't care to share the podium," Campbell said.
But DeVore, who has been endorsed by the Tea Party Express branch of the anti-tax movement and has courted its followers extensively, said their first job "is to clean up the Republican Party and make sure it stands for something." Too often, he said, it has compromised with Democrats.
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