"We simply cannot afford the risk posed by oil drilling off our magnificent coast," Boxer said while announcing the bill. "Nearly 570,000 jobs and our vital coastal economy would not survive an environmental disaster like the one we're seeing now along the Gulf Coast."
Boxer's Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, attacked the bill as "political posturing" and an "election year stunt," arguing that the existing moratorium is preferable to a permanent ban because it allows for reevaluation when conditions may have changed.
Rep. Paul Hodes, D-New Hampshire, has sought to attack his possible Republican challengers by raising the specter of drilling off of the New England coast, which currently is banned.
"My Republican opponents need to tell the people of New Hampshire where they stand," said Hodes in a media release. "Would they put New Hampshire's Seacoast region at risk by allowing offshore drilling, or will they stand up to big oil for New Hampshire?"
Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican running for the Senate, has trumpeted his efforts to limit pollution from a BP refinery on Lake Michigan. Kirk, along with many other Illinois politicians, applied pressure in 2007 after federal regulators agreed to increase discharge limits for BP's Whiting refinery.
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a Democrat, has disputed Kirk's claims of success.
"Congressman Kirk claims he 'stopped' BP from polluting Lake Michigan," said Jack Darin, president of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, in a release from the Giannoulias campaign. "Unfortunately, nobody 'stopped BP' from polluting our drinking water -- Indiana ignored Kirk's protests and gave BP a permit for the pollution. Sure, he took a boat ride and held a press conference for the cameras, but in the end, big oil won."
The protection of the Great Lakes also has emerged as an issue in Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee attacked Republican challenger Ron Johnson for owning stock in BP. Johnson defended the holdings as normal for anyone with an investment portfolio and announced plans to put all of his investments into a blind trust.
Last week, Feingold released a television ad that alleged Johnson supports allowing drilling in the Great Lakes.
"I said no to drilling in our Great Lakes. But one opponent, Ron Johnson, disagrees," says Feingold in the ad. "He's willing to hand over the Great Lakes to the oil companies, threatening Wisconsin's economy and a way of life for generations of Wisconsin families."
Johnson has responded with his own ad.
"Ron Johnson opposes drilling in the Great Lakes and Russ Feingold knows it," Johnson said in the spot. "Great Lakes drilling's already illegal and Feingold knows that too, because he voted against the law that protected our lakes."
While Feingold did vote against the larger bill that ultimately codified the ban on drilling in the Great Lakes, he did so because of objections to other provisions of the bill and had co-sponsored efforts to enact such a ban in the past.
Attacks accusing opponents of favoring "big oil" have become common as the spill continues to dominate the news cycle.
Missouri secretary of state and Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan as charged that Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, is too close to oil companies.