Sunday, January 20, 2008

Valley issues get parties' attention GOP candidates clash more on immigration, emissions, genocide.

Jan 18, 2008
Fresno Bee, CA
By Michael Doyle / Bee Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The surviving presidential contenders from both parties are competing more furiously than ever, but beneath their surface discord they often find common ground on issues important to the San Joaquin Valley.

Even as their competition escalates, Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards agree the United States should formally recognize the Armenian genocide.

The Democrats also uniformly back California's bid to impose stiffer greenhouse gas regulations. And they each support an agricultural guest-worker proposal called AgJOBS that could offer legal status to 1.5 million illegal immigrant farmworkers.

Republican candidates clash more on those issues, mirroring in some ways their sharp policy divisions at the national level.

On issues such as immigration, for example, the law-and-order advocates who emphasize stricter border controls can clash loudly with the self-styled compassionate conservatives who stress a blend of security and social integration.

For candidates from both parties, the Valley can offer a treasure trove of primary voters on Feb. 5.

The candidates are enticing those votes through a combination of policy positions and personal appeals. Six of the major candidates have visited Fresno and the southern San Joaquin Valley since last year, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is expected to visit Fresno on Sunday.

"We'll be seeing more of them," predicted Mike Lynch, a Modesto-based Democratic political consultant. "They've got to come through here."

The Democrats favor the same phrases on some Valley issues, with Edwards and Clinton both saying an agricultural guest-worker program will let farmworkers "come out of the shadows."

While legislatively dormant at present, the agricultural guest-worker proposal remains politically volatile. It's an issue that can tip voters one way or another in regions like the San Joaquin Valley, home to many illegal immigrants and the farmers who employ them.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who visited the Valley early last year, is the only Republican candidate to formally endorse the agricultural guest-worker program, although former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani sounds sympathetic. McCain's position draws fire from his fellow conservatives, who denounce it as amnesty.

"McCain championed a bill to let every illegal immigrant stay in America permanently," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney charged in a recently aired TV commercial in New Hampshire.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee piled on, declaring that he "opposed the amnesty President Bush and Sen. McCain tried to ram through Congress" last year.

The word "amnesty" is politically toxic, and supporters of the comprehensive immigration and agricultural guest-worker proposals speak of "earned legalization," whereby illegal immigrants must pay fines and meet strict criteria.

Words likewise anchor the debate over an Armenian genocide resolution, which revolves around how to characterize the deaths of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. Armenian-Americans and many historians consider the widespread slaughter a genocide.

The issue is dear to the hearts of many Armenian-Americans, more than 50,000 of whom are estimated to live in the San Joaquin Valley.

California's bid to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles draws support from Democrats. While some Republicans, including Romney, argue that a consistent national emission standard is best, Democrats are united behind California's efforts, which are now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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