Former Silicon Valley CEO Targets Boxer's Senate Seat

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has announced she's running as a Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate from California. The seat is held by Democrat Barbara Boxer. Fiorina first has to win the primary against state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And here in California, the woman best known as the former head of Hewlett-Packard has jumped into the race for the U.S. Senate.

Carly Fiorina will be running as a Republican and looking to take on Democrat Barbara Boxer next year. She started her campaign yesterday with some tough talk about Senator Boxer.

NPR's Carrie Kahn has our story.

(Soundbite of song, "She's So California�)

Mr. GARY ALLAN (Singer): (Singing) �Cause she's so California.

CARRIE KAHN: A country tune that seemed tailor-made for Carly Fiorina blared as she faced a crowd of supporters of the small business(ph) in the Republican stronghold of Orange County.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. CARLY FIORINA (Former CEO, Hewlett-Packard; Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate): Today, you are looking at a woman with a renewed determination to give back and to make the most of her life.

KAHN: The 55-year-old Fiorina just completed breast cancer treatment and easily joked with the small gathering about her recent battle and her new post-chemo short haircut.

Ms. FIORINA: And I have to say that after chemotherapy, Barbara Boxer just isn't really that scary anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAHN: Putting concerns over her health quickly to rest, Fiorina launched into campaign mode. She said Barbara Boxer had done little during her 17-year tenure in the Senate, and if elected, Fiorina says she will devote herself to lowering taxes, cutting the deficit and reining in what she says is out-of-control spending by Congress.

Ms. FIORINA: Let's start by living within our own means. The rest of us do. Why shouldn't Washington?

KAHN: Fiorina says she's a political newcomer who can bring her business sense to Congress. Her resume is impressive. As the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, she was the first woman to ever lead a Fortune top 20 company. She was also an economic advisor to John McCain's presidential campaign, and was briefly mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate.

Mr. DAN SCHNUR (Director, Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC): If Fiorina's the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, she could very well be the most formidable opponent that Barbara Boxer has ever faced for that seat.

KAHN: Dan Schnur is a former Republican political consultant who now runs the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

Mr. SCHNUR: Boxer's never run against a female candidate before. She's never run against a candidate with extensive private sector experience before. But she's certainly never run against a candidate who's got the kind of financial resources at her disposal that Carly Fiorina does before.

KAHN: Fiorina left Hewlett-Packard with a $21 million severance package after being forced out in a highly publicized dispute with the company's board. Critics have tried to use that against her, but Fiorina says she left the company in good condition.

Before she can challenge Boxer, though, Fiorina, a moderate, most first defeat the other Republican in the race, who calls himself a true conservative. State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore has been tirelessly campaigning for months with little money and even less media exposure. DeVore says he's trilled about Fiorina's entrance in the race and all the press attention she brings. And, he added, he's not worried about all her money.

Assemblyman CHUCK DEVORE (Republican, California): California has a lot of people with money and scant public experience leaving vast sums of that money in the hands of advertising bodies and their consultants and not winning.

KAHN: The head of the state Democratic Party dismissed Fiorina as quote, "yet another millionaire neophyte in search of new hobby." At a time when Congress's popularity is at an all time low, Fiorina is counting on her newness to be an asset.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

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