California Republicans tap women to lead ticket
AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) – Once, California Democrats led the way to a year of the women. Now, nearly two decades later, Republicans hope it’s their turn.
Meg Whitman won the party’s nomination for California governor on Tuesday and Carly Fiorina will carry the GOP banner into the fall campaign for a Senate seat, a pair of wealthy businesswomen and first-time candidates running against veteran politicians in a year of palpable anti-establishment sentiment.
In next-door Nevada, a third woman contender, Sharron Angle, won the right to oppose Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the fall.
The primaries, spread across a dozen states from coast to coast, took place against a backdrop of the worst recession in decades, stubbornly high unemployment, dispiriting day-by-day images of the damage caused by an offshore oil rig disaster and poll after poll that reported the voters angry and eager for a change.
Whitman told voters she understood their discontent in her first appearance as GOP nominee to replace retiring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Career politicians in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., be warned: You now face your worst nightmare – two businesswomen from the real world who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done,” she said. The remarks were aimed at Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., seeking a return to the office he left in 1983.
Ironically, Boxer’s victory and that of fellow California Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 1992 were standout events in an election year that sent record numbers of women to Congress, many of them Democrats. Scores of women were enraged by the predominantly male Senate’s treatment of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; that anger translated into female candidates running for Congress.
Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, spent more than $70 million in her own funds to claim her nomination. Fiorina is a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
As bruising as they were, the night’s events merely set the stage for the fall campaign, when Republicans hope to challenge Democratic control of Congress and the two parties vie for three dozen statehouses.
Fiorina is “against a woman’s right to choose, supports the Arizona immigration law, wants to repeal health care and supports allowing people on the ‘no-fly’ list to buy guns,” said Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Another conservative Democrat, California Rep. Jane Harman, withstood a challenge from a more liberal opponent – in this case, Marcy Winograd, co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Progressive Democrats of America.
Two incumbents did not fare as well Tuesday.
Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada fell to Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge, after a term marked by a messy public divorce and allegations of infidelity. Rory Reid, the son of the Senate majority leader, won the Democratic nomination.
Gibbons was the first governor tossed from office in a year of living dangerously for incumbents everywhere.
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