John McCain said yesterday that he supports a proposed ballot initiative in his home state that would prohibit affirmative action policies in state and local governments. A decade ago, he called a similar effort "divisive."
Over the years, McCain has consistently voiced his opposition to hiring quotas based on race. He has supported affirmative action in limited cases. For example, he voted to maintain a program that encourages the awarding of 10 percent of spending on highway construction to women and minorities.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," the Republican presidential candidate said he supports the effort to get a referendum on the ballot in Arizona that would end affirmative action.
In 1998, a resolution in the Arizona Legislature sought to eliminate most preferences based on race, gender, color or ethnic origin. At the time, McCain warned against using ballot proposals to outlaw quotas or racial preferences. "Rather than engage in divisive ballot initiatives, we must have a dialogue and cooperation and mutual efforts together to provide for every child in America to fulfill their expectations," he said.
Democratic challenger Barack Obama said he is a "strong supporter of affirmative action when properly structured so that it is not just a quota." He said he believes a university or college should be able to take into account race as well as economic class and hardship when making assessments about admissions.
Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month - three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban - compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May.
McCain said the policy reversal came as a response to rising voter anger over soaring energy prices. At the time, about three-quarters of voters responding to a
Opening vast stretches of the country's coastline to oil exploration would help America eliminate its dependence on foreign oil, McCain said.
McCain delivered the speech before heading to Texas for a series of fund-raisers with energy industry executives, and the day after the speech he raised $1.3 million at a private luncheon and reception at the San Antonio Country Club.
Brian Rogers, a McCain campaign spokesman, said he considers any suggestion that McCain weighed fund-raising into his calculation on drilling policy "completely absurd."
"I'm going to want somebody with independence, who's willing to tell me where he thinks or she thinks I'm wrong," Obama said in an interview that aired yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Obama's running mate will be hired for more than a ceremonial role, the Illinois senator said. "We're going to have a lot of problems and a lot of work to do, and I'm not interested in a vice president who I just send off to go to funerals," he said.