California: Senator Barbara Boxer
More Than Just a Fighter, She's a True Champion
Last fall, when Barbara Boxer received the Sierra Club's Edgar Wayburn Award-the
highest honor the Club bestows on public officials-then-President Adam Werbach
applauded her "unwavering and passionate leadership" on behalf of the
environment. Which pretty well explains why foes of the environment are working
feverishly to defeat her this fall.
Boxer, in fact, is at the very top of the political hit list
for conservatives. And toward the end of her first term as
the junior senator from California-spawning ground of Ronald Reagan, Charlton
Heston, and the property-tax revolt-the unabashedly liberal Boxer was widely viewed
as the nation's most endangered senator. But California is also a state with 22 national park units
and dozens of wilderness areas in need of protection, dozens more hazardous-waste
sites in need of cleanup, and several metropolitan areas in need of healthier
air. And California voters, given a clear choice between the Senate's most ardent
environmentalist and her pro-business GOP challenger, are causing pundits and
pollsters to reassess Boxer's chances. Most now call the race a toss-up.
After a decade in the House, Boxer moved to the Senate in 1992, winning a tough
struggle with Limbaugh-like radio personality Bruce Herschensohn. Her record in
the upper chamber is unequaled for its advocacy on behalf of cleaner air and
safer water-especially where kids are concerned-and untrammeled wilderness. In
1995, as a member of the Senate Environment Committee, she fought efforts to
institute a temporary moratorium on endangered species listings. She opposes
current efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act in the Senate, favoring
instead a science-based bill written by her kindred spirit in the House,
California Democrat George Miller. Last spring, when she determined that the
Quincy Library Group logging bill would harm Sierra Nevada national forests, she
not only withdrew her support but blocked a vote on the measure.
In 1997 Boxer wrote the Children's Environmental Protection Act, which would
require the EPA to tighten health standards for pesticides, household chemicals,
and other toxic substances at levels deemed safe for kids. She also earned a
perfect League of Conservation Voters rating last year.
Most analysts agree that her November opponent, state Treasurer Matt Fong, is
"charismatically challenged," but he's nonetheless Republicans' last, best hope
to unseat Boxer during this millennium. Fong wants to bolster property rights and
weaken endangered species protections, and calls Boxer "extreme." It's up to
environmentalists to make sure she continues to be called "Senator."