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Ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina To Run For Senate

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

Carly Fiorina, the former boss of HP, will stand for Senate election – while the ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman plans to terminate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is making a bid for a seat in the US Senate in 2010, while the one-time CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman, plans to challenge Califrnia governer Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2011.

Fiorina, who left HP in 2006, said in a column in the Orange Country Register that job creation, government spending and health care will be top issues for her campaign – and apologised for not voting often in past elections.

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Fiorina said in the column that she “will not settle for a jobless recovery. And we can start the important work of getting our financial house back in order by demanding to know where our money is being spent.”

Fiorina’s official declaration of her candidacy follows months of speculation that she would take on three-term Democrat incumbent Barbara Boxer, in 2010. In the primary electrion, her top rival would be California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

Fiorina joins Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, as ex-high-tech executives seeking statewide office in California. Whitman is running for governor, looking to replace Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar when his second term ends in 2011. Both candidates are looking to gain political office in a state wracked with billions of dollars of debt and a fractured legislative system.

In her newspaper column, Fiorina, a Republican, took shots at Boxer’s legislative record as well as the Obama administration’s spending and health care reform measures.

Speaking of Boxer, Fiorina said that during the incumbent’s 18 years in the Senate, she had gotten three laws enacted, only two of which were for California projects — a courthouse in Fresno and money to repair bridges in the San Francisco area.

“One piece of real work in 18 years isn’t much of a track record,” Fiorina said. “That’s not good enough for California.”

She also criticised what she called President Obama’s “tax, borrow and spend” philosophy. In addition, Fiorina, who just completed treatment for breast cancer, said Obama and Congress should build on what works in the nation’s health care system — for example, growing access to health clinics for people to receive care at a reasonable cost and reforming malpractice laws — rather than pursue a costly overhaul.

Fiorina also addressed a key criticism that’s been leveled at her by critics and her opponent — her spotty voting record in New Jersey and California. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Fiorina has voted in only five of 18 national and state elections since registering to vote in California in 2000.

“Admittedly, I have not always been engaged in the electoral process, and I should have been,” she said. “For many years I felt disconnected from the decisions made in Washington and, to be honest, really didn’t think my vote mattered because I didn’t have a direct line of sight from my vote to a result. I realise that thinking was wrong.”

Fiorina comes to the campaign with a long business resume but little political experience. She ran HP for about six years, including overseeing the company’s acquisition of Compaq Computer. However, during her time, HP’s stock numbers fell, she battled with the board of directors and was criticised for being long on vision but short on execution.

Her political experience amounts in large part to being a high-profile proxy for Senator John McCain in his bid for the presidency, although she eventually was dismissed from the campaign after conflicts there.