Two Tech Chiefs Triumph in California

Daily News Article   —   Posted on June 9, 2010

(by Jim Carlton, Stu Woo and Cari Tuna, The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com) SAN FRANCISCO – Republican voters in California sent two former Silicon Valley chief executives, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, into the races for governor and U.S. Senate against establishment Democrats.

The contest will highlight a sharp partisan split in the state as the candidates tout sharply different solutions to the state’s economic problems.

Ms. Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO, … will face Sen. Barbara Boxer, the three-term incumbent with powerful backing, who handily won the Democratic nomination Tuesday.

“This fall, she will have to answer to the people of California for her failure to stand up for our state,” Ms. Fiorina said in a statement before addressing supporters in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday night. “Together, we will replace Boxer, take Washington back, make it listen and make it work.”

Ms. Whitman, former eBay Inc. chief executive, beat her rival, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner for the GOP nomination to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Poizner conceded defeat late Tuesday night. The margin was wide: In vote counting late Tuesday night, Ms. Whitman was leading Mr. Poizner 64% to 26%.

Ms. Whitman will face Jerry Brown, the veteran politician who handily beat token opposition against him in the Democratic primary.

“Career politicians in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., be warned because you now face your biggest nightmare: Two businesswomen who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done,” Ms. Whitman said in her victory speech Tuesday night in Universal City, Calif. …..

Now both [Republican candidates] … must convince California’s historically moderate electorate that they have better solutions to the state’s economic and political paralysis than their veteran liberal rivals. Both must also show they can make nice with the state’s diverse ethnic and economic demographics, possibly softening their primary-race rhetoric on issues such as illegal immigration.

Also headed for a win in California was Proposition 14, a ballot measure that creates a primary-election system in which the top-two vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election. It had 60% support.

With the third-highest state unemployment rate in the nation, California’s lagging economy will play a big role in the November election. Ms. Whitman and Ms. Fiorina both plan to continue touting their credentials as former technology company CEOs as evidence they can shore up the state budget and spur job creation better than the Democratic rivals. …..

In the race for governor, especially, California’s budget morass will likely be the top issue. “We’re going to have another long hot summer of budget delays in California,” said Stanford University political scientist Thad Kousser. “Voters will be looking for the candidate who they think has the best answers for that.”

That could benefit Ms. Whitman-who has proposed targeted tax cuts and a strict spending cap-more than Mr. Brown. He so far has been more vague about his plans, and risks alienating union supporters if he pushes to cut spending, and voters more broadly if he advocates raising taxes.

Still, Ms. Whitman will face a proven politician in Mr. Brown, now the state’s attorney general. As governor from 1975 to 1983, he earned the nickname “Governor Moonbeam” for his quirky and liberal stances, but later redefined himself as a centrist mayor of Oakland who turned the woebegone city around economically. …..

A Brown spokesman has said the attorney general intends to tell voters all about Ms. Whitman’s ties to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the scandal-ridden Wall Street firm where she once served as a board director-while displaying Mr. Brown’s economic credentials. …..

In the Senate race, the slow economic recovery could help Ms. Fiorina by shifting voters’ attention away from the conservative social stances she took during the Republican primary. She has proposed reducing income and capital-gains taxes, eliminating the estate tax and creating incentives to spur hiring by small businesses and manufacturers.

The Fiorina campaign is already gearing up to tie Ms. Boxer to the problems in Washington. “The general election for us is going to continue to prosecute against Barbara Boxer,” said Marty Wilson, Ms. Fiorina’s campaign manager. “Because of voters’ anger towards Washington, they are looking for an outsider who will shake up things.”

Ms. Boxer plans to tout her work on the stimulus package and climate bill as engines of job creation, campaign officials said. A fierce campaigner, plans to illustrate the contrasts between her and the former CEO, such as the fact the senator is pro choice like the majority of Californians while Ms. Fiorina is not.

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Write to Jim Carlton at jim.carlton@wsj.com, Stu Woo at Stu.Woo@wsj.com and Cari Tuna at cari.tuna@wsj.com.

Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only.  Visit the website at wsj.com.

Questions

1. Name the winners of the Republican primaries for governor and senator in California.

2. Who will be their Democratic opponents in November?

3. For what reasons might each Republican winner expect to do well in the November election?

4. For what reasons might each Democrat challenger expect to do well in the November election?

5. What credentials do both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have that would cause voters concerned with the state budget and job market to support them?

6. What credentials do both Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer have that would help get votes from people who don’t pay attention to politics? (see para. 3, 13)

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Resources

For a list of results from all primaries across the country, click here.