Senate Candidates Spar on Minimum Wage, Crime

The drought, crime and the minimum wage were among the topics discussed Tuesday when the top five candidates in California's U.S. Senate race faced off in San Diego.

At this point in the race, most eyes are on top two candidates California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. It was clear some of the candidates targeted front runner Harris in this final debate before the California primary on June 7.

The candidates, Democrats Harris and Sanchez and Republicans Tom Del Becarro, Duf Sundheim and Ron Unz each seek one of the two slots on the November ballot.

One hot issue during the debate at San Diego State University was raising the minimum wage.

Sanchez supports raising the minimum wage.

"I was the only one to endorse the Fight for $15 initiative,” said Sanchez. “Didn’t put my finger in the wind to see where people were. I did it.”

Unz said he would support a $12 federal wage and said California's rate should account for urban-rural economic differences.

He added that immigration levels should be reduced, since a flood of workers creates pressure on wages.

“If we raise the minimum wage we're forcing the businesses to pay their own workers instead of shifting it onto taxpayers and eliminate the magnetic lure of low wage jobs,” Unz said.

Republicans Del Beccaro and Sudheim warned that the state's $15 level, which will be reached incrementally, would cost jobs in the state's agricultural heartland.

Although much of the time was spent discussing national issues, Harris faced some targeted attacks.

Sundheim used his opening statement to accuse Harris of failing to keep crime in check.

Harris later shot back, saying Sundheim was "playing around" with facts while she defended her record on seizing illegal guns and ammunition.

Questioned about global warming, Unz said he's not persuaded by the evidence behind climate change. Del Beccaro said unreasonable regulation is pushing jobs overseas, where environmental laws are lax. Harris stressed she had defended state environmental laws, and pointed out she was endorsed by major environmental groups. Sanchez argued that it's not enough to push strong environmental laws in California -- more must be done nationally and globally.

The seat was opened by the retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. The top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will face each other on Election Day.

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