Former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina announced Wednesday she’s running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in California. Fiorina brings considerable wealth and name recognition to her bid to oust three-term Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.
It was an unusual start to a major announcement.
"Let me start with perhaps the most obvious question of all on your minds," said Carly Fiorina. "What's with the hair?"
Fiorina, 55, wore close-cropped hair. She recently underwent successful chemotherapy for breast cancer, but assured her audience she was in good health. "I feel absolutely great."
Fiorina describes herself as a pro-life, fiscal conservative.
She’s signed a ‘no new taxes’ pledge, and she opposes a public option for health care reform.
Perhaps because she knows the woman she hopes to unseat boasts a strong environmental record, Fiorina announced her run for Senate at a company called Earth Friendly Products in Garden Grove. She accused Senator Barbara Boxer of supporting environmental regulations that kill jobs and of supporting too much government spending.
Fiorina also derided the three-term incumbent as a do-nothing politician who’s accomplished little in Washington. "Sometimes I wonder whether California even has two U.S. senators. There's Dianne Feinstein and there's what's-her-name."
Boxer’s re-election campaign fired back with a list of accomplishments. In the past, it’s described Fiorina as a failed Silicon Valley executive who exported jobs.
During Fiorina’s first official campaign event, someone asked about her firing from Hewlett Packard after six turbulent years. "How do we as your supporters answer that question?"
Fiorina blamed leaked inside information and a divided board of directors at the tech company.
To face Boxer in the general election, she must get past arch-conservative Orange County state Assemblyman Chuck Davore in the GOP primary. Davore's worked hard to win grassroots GOP support. He said he's the true blue conservative in the race.
"I believe that the purpose of government is to secure our inalienable rights; that our government is too large; that we're spending too much, especially of money borrowed from China," Davore said.
He added that Fiorina "is much more of a pragmatic or moderate individual. Seems to be the sort of person that kind of makes it up as she goes along."
Republicans, battered by a series of losses in California and across the country, are looking for fresh blood. Martha House of the California Federation of Republican Women said she was "tickled pink" Fiorina's in the race. But she remains undecided and firmly said "electability" will govern her choice.
Ray Grangoff, who works for a Republican Orange County supervisor, said he too is undecided. But he hopes Fiorina will "re-invigorate our party... because people are tired of what we've been offered in the past."
Fiorina is the latest former Silicon Valley executive to jump into politics in California, joining former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who are running for governor.
Like Whitman, Fiorina's voted little in the last three decades.
"I'm not proud of my voting record. Shame on me," said Fiorina. "The truth is that for many years, I felt that my vote was disconnected from anything going on in Washington."
Now that she wants to go there, she regards voting as very important.
Fiorina hasn’t said how much of her own considerable personal wealth she’ll apply to the campaign. If she wins the primary and gains traction against Boxer, one question is whether the national GOP will support her with major donations.
The national Democratic Party, eager to maintain its filibuster proof margin in the senate, has pledged considerable resources to keep Boxer in her seat.