SAN FRANCISCO: It's been a big week for incumbent Democrat Barbara
Boxer, who needed it after watching GOP state Treasurer Matt Fong move
into the favorite's role in recent weeks. A new Los Angeles Times
poll gave her a 49 percent to 44 percent lead in her re-election battle,
reversing the 5-point lead Fong had in the same poll a month ago and
other polls had her even farther ahead.
Much of the credit belongs to a series of hard-hitting television ads
Boxer has put out, challenging Fong's opposition to abortion, gun control
and tough environmental regulations. A two-day visit from President
Clinton last weekend raised almost $2 million more for Boxer, giving
her the money she needs to saturate the airwaves with attacks on Fong.
But Boxer, a standout campaigner, also has been crisscrossing the state
in an effort to rally her supporters.
Fong had troubles of his own. Besides watching his polls skid, he also
managed to get into a nasty fight over a $50,000 donation he gave to
the Traditional Values Coalition, an ultra-conservative religious group
opposed to abortion, gay rights, sex education and the teaching of evolution
in public schools.
The contribution, which came from money left over from Fong's 1994 treasurer's
race, was used only for a poll in an initiative drive that would have
banned same-sex marriages in California, Fong said, but the controversy
over the religious right group threatened to dent his carefully sculpted
image as a moderate alternative to Boxer. In an effort to stop the political
bleeding, Fong signed a unique written agreement with the gay-oriented
Log Cabin Republicans, pledging to either maintain or increase funding
for AIDS, back a measure that would include sexual orientation as a basis
for non-discrimination in hiring and support a variety of domestic partner
issues, all important measures for the state's gay community.
The news wasn't all bad for Fong. He received the endorsement of the
Los Angeles Times, the
San Diego Union-Tribune and the San
Francisco Chronicle, the three biggest newspapers in the state,
and raised nearly $1 million in contributions last week.