With two weeks left to go in a close contest, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina on Tuesday opened up about her own life struggles in her attempt to reach out to women.
Fiorina stopped at an Italian restaurant in Sacramento to address about 50 female supporters, most whom were white and several of whom identified themselves as mothers and small-business owners.
Fiorina is challenging Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who has cast Fiorina as a threat to women's rights because of her opposition to abortion.
One woman expressed anxiety about her children's future, prompting Fiorina to say she shared those concerns. In explaining why she is running for office for the first time, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO opened up briefly about her own challenges as a candidate.
"This is not, you know this, this isn't easy to run for office," she said. "We've had a tough couple of years in our family. We lost a daughter. I battled cancer. I lost hair."
Fiorina's 35-year-old stepdaughter, Lori Ann, died about a year ago. The cause of death was not given.
Before that, Fiorina had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her campaign said she has been treated and doctors have given her a clean bill of health.
"If this election is of incredible consequence, we have . . . to send new kinds of people to Washington," Fiorina said.
Boxer campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said the contrast between the two women remains clear.
"Sen. Boxer is fighting to create jobs," Kapolczynski said in a statement. "Carly Fiorina was personally responsible for laying off 30,000 workers and shipping California jobs overseas — all while collecting $100 million in pay and perks."
Fiorina is polling well among men. But according to the most recent Public Policy Institute of California survey, Boxer has 45 percent support among women, compared to 31 percent for Fiorina.
The PPIC poll from September found Boxer with 42 percent support among likely voters, while Fiorina had 35 percent support. Nearly one in five voters was undecided in the Senate race.
Last week, a group of Democratic female lawmakers and the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America praised Boxer for fighting to protect a woman's right to choose. Boxer has made abortion an issue throughout her campaign for a fourth term.
"Make no mistake about it, a woman's right to choose is on the ballot in California this year, and it is very stark. It is Boxer, pro-choice, vs. Fiorina, anti-choice," Boxer said in a statement. The senator on Tuesday visited an elementary school in Redwood City with Vice President Joe Biden to highlight a federally funded after-school program.
Fiorina is backed by the Susan B. Anthony List Inc., which opposes abortion. The group recently teamed up with the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, to run a 30-second Spanish-language spot that was found to be highly misleading for suggesting that Boxer opposed immigration reform.
Fiorina said after her women's luncheon Tuesday that she recognized that not all women agree with her view on abortion, but noted that women are not just single-issue voters.
Unable to bear children, Fiorina has said given the chance, she would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
"They're worried about their children, they're worried about the future of their state and their families," Fiorina said. "And so many, many women, as well as men, say: 'You know what, the issues that are at stake in this race are about our jobs, and our future, and our government.'"
Janie Desmond Ison, 50, who owns the Cafe Vinoteca that hosted Fiorina's luncheon, said she switched parties from Democrat to Republican two weeks ago because the economy does not appear to be improving. Business at her family's two restaurants is down about 25 percent from two years ago.
"What resonated with me was her passion for job creation, plain and simple," the mother of three said.
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