SAN FRANCISCO – Former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive Carly Fiorina on Tuesday took the first formal step toward running for Democrat Barbara Boxer's U.S. Senate seat.
Fiorina filed for a tax identification number Tuesday and registered a campaign committee named "Carly for California." The committee will allow her to begin raising money for a potential 2010 run for the Republican nomination.
In a statement, Fiorina said she had been encouraged to run by "people across the political spectrum" and will begin meeting with policy advisers and financial donors.
"The people of California have serious concerns about job creation, economic growth and the role of government in solving problems that touch each of our lives," she said.
Spokeswoman Beth Miller said Fiorina would not be available Tuesday for an interview, and there was no timetable for making a formal announcement about a Senate bid.
Fiorina, 54, took the top job at Palo Alto-based HP in 1999 after spending nearly two decades at AT&T Inc. and its spun-off equipment-making arm, Lucent Technologies Inc.
She led HP's $24 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. She was pushed out in 2005 after the computer and printer maker's stock sank 56 percent on her watch.
In her memoir, "Tough Choices," Fiorina argued that she was unfairly scrutinized as a woman at the top rungs of corporate America.
Last year, Fiorina served as an economic adviser to Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
The Los Altos Hills resident finished chemotherapy after undergoing surgery for breast cancer in March and has received an excellent prognosis from her doctors, Miller said.
A Field Poll in March found voters were split when asked whether they were inclined to re-elect Boxer, but Boxer easily won in a theoretical matchup with Fiorina, 55 percent to 25 percent.
But some Republicans in Washington said they believed Boxer was vulnerable to a strong challenger.
"Should Carly Fiorina enter the race for Senate, she will be a phenomenal candidate who will make California among our most competitive races next November," said Amber Wilkerson, a spokeswoman National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Boxer is in her third term in the Senate and easily won re-election in 1998 and 2004. She has been a leading voice on women's issues. Boxer's three previous general election races were all against men, but her appeal to women voters in California could be tested by a female Republican opponent.
"With Carly Fiorina's ability to use her personal wealth to fund a challenge to Senator Boxer, this could end up being our most expensive race yet," said Rose Kapolczynski, Boxer's campaign spokeswoman.
Boxer had $5.4 million in cash on hand, according to the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. Fiorina left HP with a severance package of $21 million.
The Boxer camp has expected all along that Fiorina would enter the race. When Fiorina indicated in the spring she was considering a Senate run, Boxer immediately attacked her record at HP.
Democratic officials took a similar line of attack Tuesday. Eric Schultz, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Fiorina "was fired from Hewlett-Packard for running the company into the ground ... and now thinks the people of California are going to hire her."
In a short biography released along with her announcement Tuesday, the HP's Fiorina-led merger with Compaq is described as "the most successful merger in high-tech history."
In 2007, HP cracked $100 billion in annual sales for the first time, an achievement some credit in part to the Compaq acquisition.
Boxer has also found herself at the center of attention recently by chastising a brigadier general who called her "ma'am" during a congressional hearing. Critics portrayed Boxer as condescending and disrespectful to military men and women.
If Fiorina runs, she would face state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine in the GOP primary. Barbara O'Connor, professor of political communication at Sacramento State University, said DeVore has already taken smart, aggressive steps toward cultivating the state's Republican base.
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