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GOOD Voter Guide to California: United States Senate

One of these five people will represent California in the United States Senate for the next six years. Choose wisely.


Over the course of the next two weeks, we will be publishing primers about the important items on the ballot in California as part of our GOOD Voter Guide.

One of these five people will represent California in the United States Senate for the next six years. Choose wisely.

Barbara Boxer (incumbent)

Political Party: Democratic Candidate

Platform: Her top priority in these uncertain economic times? “Getting California back on track and getting Californians back to work.”

Background and History: Boxer currently holds the position of Chief Deputy Whip of the Democratic Majority of the U.S. Congress. But before all that fanciness, she was born in Brooklyn on November 11, 1940. She got a degree in economics from Brooklyn College, worked as a stockbroker for a bit in the 1960s, moved to Northern California, and then got into politics in 1972. She was elected as a member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors where she served as its first woman president.

In 1982 she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and remained there for a decade. In 1993 she was elected to the Senate and has stayed there ever since. As a Senator, she divides her time among 20 committees, 68 subcommittees, and four joint committees. She is Chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. She describes herself as “anti-war, anti-big business, pro-woman, and pro-environmenal rights crusader.” She is pegged as one of the more liberal Democrats in the Senate, voting with her party over 95 percent of the time.

Civil Rights: Back in the day, Boxer voted against the Patriot Act because she thought it harmed civil liberties. More recently, she voted for the military to repeal its "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy and voted against a constitutional ban on gay marriage. There was a recent kerfuffle when a Republican-sponsored Spanish-language advertisement claimed that Boxer voted against immigration reform, which was a surprise to her, as she has been a well-known advocate for comprehensive immigration reform for most of her career. She’s down for tough border security, but she has also advocated a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and supported the 2009 AgJOBS Act, which gave temporary visas to undocumented workers already in U.S. farms and fields.

Economic Responsibility and Justice: She supported Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus plan. She co-authored the bipartisan “Invest in the U.S.A. Act,” which gave companies tax incentives to create jobs in the United States and eliminated tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. She helped pass the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which provided small businesses with tax cuts and loans, stating that “small businesses are the major job creators in our economy and this legislation will ensure that [they] have the tax incentives and credit they need to expand and hire.”

Environmental Responsibility: There’s a lot here. Boxer is the first woman to chair the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works. She added an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996 and was super-mad at the Bush Administration’s rollback of clean air legislation and logging restrictions. As a Senator she has tried, a few times, to pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it has always been deemed too “radical.”

In 2009, Boxer teamed up with Senator John Kerry to introduce their version of a climate bill, another strategy to reduce greenhouse gasses and cut dependence on foreign oil. The bill included the contentious “cap and trade” system that would give industries a certain amount of “permits to pollute” and then allow companies could trade those permits. It also included a carbon offset program that would help compensate farmers and landowners for their help with carbon mitigation (sustainable agriculture or planting trees, for example).

There was some pretty serious drama that went down in the Senate around the bill: First the Republican global warming denier Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, said that Boxer was clearly working with some “corporate prostitutes” on this bill. Then, Republican members of the Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted the marking up of the bill. Boxer went ahead and marked it up without them. The bill died out of committee (and we probably won’t see another climate bill for years). Maybe Barbara should have gotten some Republicans on board? Or, maybe there’s just too much yelling in the Senate to get any real work done on climate change.

Health Care: Boxer voted in support of the recent health care reform package. In the past, she voted to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to allow the import of prescription drugs from Canada, and to support military members and their families with affordable health care.

Education: Barbara wrote landmark legislation establishing the first-ever federal funding for after-school programs. She is rated 91 percent by the NEA, indicating pro-public education votes.

Reproductive Freedom: Boxer strongly supports abortion as a woman’s right and condemns restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, voting to expand research to more embryonic stem cell lines. She has also voted to allocate $100 million to reduce teen pregnancy with education and contraceptives. She gets a 100 percent rating by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record.

International Issues: Boxer opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning.

Fun Facts: Boxer has published two novels: A Time to Run and Blind Trust. They each have three stars on Amazon. Also, in 2005, Barbara co-filed a U.S. Congressional Objection to the certification of Ohio’s Electoral College votes in the 2004 election. (You may recall, Ohio was sort of the clincher that year.) As a result of this challenge, Congress was forced into a debate over voter fraud and a constituent began the Barbara Boxer Rose Campaign, where the Senator received 4,500 roses to her office on Valentine’s Day 2005.

Key Donors and Endorsements: Boxer had raised $18,884,745 as of July. Her top five contributors are Emily’s List (a pro-choice group), Girardi & Keese (a law firm), the University of California, Time Warner, and Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy (another law firm).

Her endorsers include: Barack Obama, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Labor Federation, the AFL-CIO, the California League of Conservation Voters, the California Nurses Association, Clean Water Action, Emily’s List, Feminist Majority Political Action Committee, the League of Conservation Voters, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Education Association, the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Political Caucus, Ocean Champions, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, Planned Parenthood, and the Sierra Club.

Sources: On The Issues, Barbara Boxer, Project Vote Smart, Amazon, Daily Kos, WhoRunsGov, OpenSecrets, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, PolitiFact

Marsha Feinland

Political Party: Peace and Freedom

Candidate Platform: As a member of the Peace and Freedom party, Feinland is committed to socialism, democracy, ecology, feminism, and racial equality.

Background and History: Feinland was born in New York City, went on to get her B.A. in history at Bryn Mawr College, class of 1969. That was an admittedly wacky year, so we won't fault her for a GPA of 2.9. She got it together when she got her M.S. in Education from California State University in the East Bay 10 years later. (She earned a 4.0 this time.)

Feinland was a school teacher for 25 years. Also served as a Rent Board Commissioner in Berkeley and worked to pass the Just Cause for Eviction ordinance in Oakland. She ran for President of the United States in 1996, representing the Peace and Freedom party, and received 25,332 votes. In 2004, she ran against Boxer for Senate and received 243,000 votes.

Civil Rights: Feinland maintains that people who come to this country to work or to escape persecution should not be called criminals. She also wants to "end discrimination based on race, sex, age, sexual orientation, or disability."

Economic Responsibility and Justice: Feinland think that it’s better to protect people who live in foreclosed properties than it is to bail out banks. She also wants to double the minimum wage, and index it to the cost of living. But it doesn't end there. Glenn Beck should actually check her out if he really wants to know what a socialist looks like. Feinland wants a 30-hour workweek with no cut in weekly pay and longer paid vacations. She backs a universal basic income to alleviate poverty and homelessness, and wants to tax the income and assets of the rich to meet human needs. And—and here's what would really get Beck exercised—she wants social ownership and democratic control of industry, financial institutions, and natural resources.

Environmental Responsibility: Feinland argues we need to place strict limits on all pollution to safeguard public health and prevent climate disaster. She does not believe in a cap and trade solution. She also wants to promote the production and use of clean renewable energy. But above all, she wants to implement infill housing, expand public transportation, and support social policies which reduce our use of energy, whatever the source, and protect and restore ecosystems.

Health Care: Feinland supports free, high-quality health care for everyone, including birth control, abortion services, and pre-natal and childhood health care. She envisions a system which covers all of us, and argues that socialized and single-payer systems provide effective and affordable health care for everyone in Britain and Canada.

Education: Feinland believes that constant testing has taken the place of real education.

Reproductive Freedom: Feinland is pro-choice.

International Issues: Feinland believes the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are a colossal waste of lives and resources, both ours and theirs. If we want to end those operations we need to cut off appropriations for them. But, she argues, that is not enough. We also need to stop subsidizing the companies that develop the weapons and the contractors that create the infrastructure for war. She also calls for the suspension of all U.S. aid to Israel until it withdraws to its pre-1967 borders.

Fun Facts: Through all of the lefty rhetoric that Feinland throw at us, she also supports the right of working people to keep and bear arms.

Sources: Feinland for Senate, Peace and Freedom Party, VoteSmart

Carly Fiorina

Political Party: Republican

Candidate Platform: Fiorina says she will focus on “Creating Jobs, Restoring Fiscal Accountability, Fixing California's Water Crisis, Focusing on Health Care, Reducing the Deficit, Immigration Reform, & Protecting America." We’ll dig into what that all means below. But first, who is she?

Background and History: Fiorina was born in Austin, Texas. She got her undergraduate degree at Stanford (in medieval history and philosophy), an M.B.A. in marketing from the University of Maryland, and then a Master of Science in Management from MIT.

Her career in business started at AT&T where she rose through the ranks to become Vice President at the AT&T spin-off Lucent Technologies. In 1998 she was named Fortune Magazine’s “#1 Most Powerful Woman in Business”. In 1995, she became the CEO of Hewlett-Packard and the first Woman CEO of a Fortune 20 company. While at HP she oversaw its merger with Compaq, a deal that many in the business press thought was a bad idea. They might have been right, as HP’s stock fell by half under Fiorina’s leadership.

In 2005, after laying off more than 30,000 workers, she was forced to resign by the HP Board of Directors and was given severance pay totaling $21 million. Carly then turned to politics. She served as an adviser to Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008. This is her first go at a political office.

Civil Rights: Fiorina was a “proud voter for Prop 8” and believes that traditional marriage should be defended, but that civil unions should be allowed for gay folks. She has stated that she supports reforming both guest worker programs for seasonal workers and visa programs for workers in other high-skill and high-demand industries. While at HP she advocated for the expansion of the H-1B Visa program (that's a 6-year guest worker visa) stating that “There is no job that is America’s God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs as a nation.”

Fiorina supports SB 1070, the current controversial anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and believes we must secure our borders to help protect the country “through technology.” She opposes trying foreign terrorists in civilian courts and closing Guantanamo Bay.

Economic Responsibility and Justice: Fiorina proposes reducing the deficit by reducing spending and cutting programs. She supported the Bush administration’s bailouts in 2008, but later said that she opposed the bailouts and believed President Obama’s economic stimulus package was unsustainable. As for her own plans, she wants to focus on jobs and small businesses by cutting taxes and reducing energy regulations and health care mandates. She calls for abolishing earmarks, and making government accounting more honest. Additionally, she supports posting each bill and budget on the Internet far enough in advance so that people can “comment on policies and take an active role in government.”

Environmental Responsibility: During the first televised debate with Senator Barbara Boxer she refused to take a stance on Proposition 23 (the measure to suspend California’s climate legislation), but two days later her campaign issued a statement that she was fully in support of Proposition 23. She has called climate change “a serious issue,” but believes global warming science is inconclusive. She has said “I think we should have the courage to examine the science on an ongoing basis.”

She opposes cap-and-trade legislation for controlling emissions and sees “green initiatives as contrary to job growth.” However, she does want to reduce dependence on foreign oil through investing in clean technology (which, we guess, she doesn’t count as a green initiative?) Finally, she promises to take the correct steps to “get the taps flowing” to the farms in the central valley.

Health Care: Fiorina’s a former CEO, so she’s down with encouraging competition in the health insurance market and wants the government to butt out. She supports a repeal the federal health-care reform bill passed this year. She also wants to crack down on frivolous lawsuits and make sure no one is denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Education: Fiorina doesn’t mention Education in her platform, but we do know that she had come out against the Senate bill to deliver $26 billion in federal aid to schools, stating that it’s full of accounting tricks and doesn’t immediately go to schools. (Independent analysis has said that that the bill would save 16,500 teachers in California schools.)

Reproductive Freedom: Fiorina has stated that she is against abortion personally and she is endorsed by several anti-choice organizations. However, some of those groups have criticized her for stating that “Roe v. Wade is a decided issue” and that working to limit reproductive freedoms would not be a priority for her if she were elected.

International Issues: Fiorina states that she is committed to winning the war against Afghanistan and that the federal government should listen to the commanders on the ground and stay until the job is done. She is also committed to strongly supporting the state of Israel, and its right to defend itself. She supports tougher sanctions against Iran, however she has come under fire for HP equipment sales to Iran during her tenure at the company.

Fun Facts: Portfolio listed Fiorina as one of “The 20 Worst CEO’s of all time.” It wasn’t for a lack of creativity though, at least judging from her campaign ads. One featured her Republican primary opponent as a demon-wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was aptly titled “Lies, Damn Lies and Demon Sheep.” Then there’s the seven-minute spot attacking her current Democratic challenger, Barbara Boxer, in which Boxer’s head inflates, breaks off from her body, and wreaks havoc as it sails over California.

Key Donors and Endorsements: As of July, Fiorina had raised $10.6 million, $5.5 million of which was from her own bank account. The majority of the rest of her donations are from individuals, including $63,000 from Appalachian coal-mining interests. Despite Carly’s close Silicon Valley ties, high-tech firms are giving more money to Boxer.

Her endorsers include Sen. John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Rick Santorum, the California Farm Bureau, GOProud, Hip Hop Republicans, Young Republicans Federated California, Susan B. Anthony’s List, Taxpayer’s League Liberty Fund, and the California Pro-Life Council.

Sources: The Los Angeles Times, Carly for California, ThinkProgress, RedState, Gawker, Fortune, CNN, OpenSecrets, California Watch, Hispanic Business

Edward C. Noonan

Political Party: American Independent / Tea Party

Candidate Platform: Noonan opposes "illegal alien amnesty and open borders," "climate alarmism," and "immorality/godlessness."

Background and History: Noonan served for four years in the U.S. Army. He was State Party Chairman of the American Independent Party from 2006 to 2008. He also ran for governor in California in 2006.

Civil Rights: We’re just going to let him speak for himself: “WE BELIEVE IN CONSERVATIVE LATTER DAY SAINT VALUES AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!!! WE KNOW THAT ABORTION AND ESPECIALLY HOMOSEXUALITY ARE THE GREATEST MORAL EVILS OF OUR DAY!!! ALL MEN SHOULD BE LIKE "HELAMAN'S 2000 STRIPLING WARRIORS" (ALMA 53:17-18) BECAUSE A STRONG RIGHTEOUS LAND EQUALS A STRONG CALIFORNIA.” Wow.

Fun Facts: Noonan thinks President Obama is not a citizen of the United States.

Key Donors and Endorsements: The California Mormon Battalion (Noonan is the founder).

Sources: VoteSmart, ResistNet, Noonan for U.S. Senate 2010

Duane Roberts

Political Party: Green

Candidate Platform: Roberts's first priorities are to create a single-payer health care system modeled on Medicare, ensure every student is eligible to receive a tuition-free public higher education, and repeal all federal laws making it a crime to use marijuana and hemp.

Background and History: Roberts was born to working-class parents in Burbank, California, in 1967, but grew up in Anaheim. He worked as a typesetter before earning a B.A. in Criminology, Law and Society from The University of California, Irvine. In 2000, he ran for the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees, and though he lost, Roberts was the first Green Party candidate running in a nonpartisan race to receive the endorsement of the Orange County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Between 2006 and 2008, Roberts was publisher of the Orange Coast Voice, a monthly community newspaper that circulates 15,000 copies in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, and surrounding areas.

He is a longtime member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim and has been elected to serve on its Board of Trustees three times.

Civil Rights: Roberts supports the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, calling Proposition 8 an "odious act that should be immediately repealed." He is also a strong supporter of immigrant rights, stating, "the majority of immigrants living here 'illegally' are law-abiding, work hard, and make important contributions to the wealth of this country. Those who have established residency and/or are raising families should be allowed to become citizens."

Roberts is calling loudly for the repeal of federal laws that criminalize marijuana, and backs Proposition 19. For Roberts, it's a public safety issue. He argues that marijuana prosecutions waste jail space, clog up the court system, and divert the time of police, prosecutors, and judges away from violent criminals.

Economic Responsibility and Justice: Roberts also wants to legalize the weed because it would, theoretically, bring in billions of dollars in new tax revenues for cash-strapped California, not to mention the rest of the country, and would help facilitate the development of industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity.

Environmental Responsibility: Roberts is not down with nuclear power as a clean energy source. He thinks that any positive contribution of nuclear power to combating climate change "is greatly outweighed by the fact it happens to be one of the most expensive and dangerous sources of energy ever created." He thinks that subsidies are too big for nuclear plants, and that we should instead promote mass transit and work on developing clean and safe sources of renewable energy, like solar power. Roberts also wants to levy special taxes on companies with high greenhouse gas emissions.

Health Care: Roberts believes that health care is "a fundamental human right deserving of all people and not a commodity to be sold at a profit to the highest bidder." He wants to "drive the private health insurance industry out of business and replace it with a single-payer system." Roberts thinks that the federal health-care reform bill is actually a scheme to bailout the Wall Street billionaires who have lost investments in private health insurance companies.

Education: Roberts wants to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and use the money saved to pay for tuition-fee higher education for all students in the United States. He says that by "immediately withdrawing all U.S. military troops, private mercenaries, and independent contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan, we can use about half of the estimated $200 billion in taxpayer money currently being wasted each year on these bloody colonial wars to guarantee that every academically-qualified student living within the United States, regardless of immigration status, will be able to obtain a tuition-free education at a public college, university, or technical trade school of their choosing."

International Issues: Roberts wants to withdraw the troops now.

Fun Facts: In 2003, Duane helped organize what then was one of the biggest anti-war demonstrations in Orange County since the Vietnam War. It was at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.

Sources: Vote for Duane, Green Party Watch, The Voter Guide

Some disclaimers: This guide is a volunteer operation, not produced by GOOD. Due to research fatigue, lame candidate websites, and Murphy's Law, you may spot a mistake or two. Some candidates simply don’t provide a lot of info, and our researcher styles varied, so some profiles may differ or seem a bit incomplete.