SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Senate contenders Dianne Feinstein and Tom Campbell clashed sharply Friday on drugs, economics and immigration, as raucous Green Party protesters rushed the television station where they debated and demanded their candidate be allowed to participate.
There were no injuries. After the hour-long debate, Feinstein left the building through a rear entrance to avoid some 100 protesters, who remain jammed in the building’s lobby.
Supporters of Green Party candidate Medea Benjamin began their protest on the sidewalk in front of KRON-TV, then pushed into the stations’ lobby. Benjamin was excluded from the debate under ground rules adopted by the station and the Feinstein and Campbell campaigns.
About a dozen police officers blocked the demonstrators and arrested two people. One was identified as Northern California campaign director June Brashares. Both were immediately released.
The protest did not delay the debate’s start.
Meanwhile, in the upstairs studio, Campbell and Feinstein differed on immigration and the Republican Campbell’s proposal to help addicts kick the habit by giving them access to drugs.
They also clashed on Social Security financing, with Democratic incumbent Feinstien opposing Campbell’s proposal — similar to that of Texas Gov. George Bush —to invest some Social Security funds in the stock market.
The disagreements began with an exchange on drug policy.
Campbell said the federal government’s plan to give $1.3 billion to Colombia for an anti-drug program was the first step toward a “third world jungle war.”
“Don’t spend this money on Colombia, spend it on rehabilitation,” he said.
Feinstein said though current anti-drug efforts have not succeeded, she opposed offering drugs to addicts.
“It’s folly to legalize narcotics,” she said.
Campbell also said Feinstein supported a national ID citizenship card as a citizenship test — which she denied — and restricted levels of legal immigration.
As the two met in the studio, their scant, newly released television ads peppered the air waves — the first TV spots in the no-frills campaign.
Feinstein’s 30-second spot focuses on education, health care and crime, while Campbell’s ad centers on his drug treatment proposal. Campbell says giving addicts drugs in controlled settings with local authorities’ approval would help treatment and limit crime. Feinstein has ridiculed the idea.
By election day, Feinstein is likely to spend roughly $5 million on her general election and Campbell little more than half that — cheap in a state known for costly campaigns.
Campbell, 48, a Harvard-trained Stanford University law school professor with a decade in the House, has raised issues he says distinguish him from Feinstein.
Those include replacing the personal income tax with a national sales tax. He also notes that he refuses to accept contributions from special-interest political action committees.
Feinstein, 67, opposes Campbell’s position on taxes and drug rehabilitation, and accepts PAC funds.
Both favor gun control and abortion rights, two hot-button issues in California.
Any differences on issues have been overshadowed by Campbell’s claim that Feinstein has conflicts of interest arising from her husband’s financial dealings and that she failed to fully disclose them.
Campbell raised the issue in their first debate Tuesday in Santa Monica. He hammered it again at a San Francisco news conference Friday afternoon.
Feinstein’s husband, international investment banker Richard C. Blum, has an array of financial interests, including some in China affected by Feinstein’s Senate votes, Campbell said.
Feinstein denies Campbell’s assertions. She said she has supplied complete disclosure information.
A Los Angeles Times poll released Friday showed Feinstein with a 25-point lead over Campbell among likely voters. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.