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Fiorina jumps into high-profile California Senate race

By Alexander Mooney, CNN
Carly Fiorina is considered to be a moderate Republican with little history on social issues.
Carly Fiorina is considered to be a moderate Republican with little history on social issues.
  • Former Hewlett-Packard CEO was first woman to lead Fortune 500 company
  • She will face off with conservative assemblyman for GOP nomination
  • Recent poll found 60 percent of state's Republican voters undecided
  • Winner will face incumbent Barbara Boxer in November

(CNN) -- Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina finally made it official Wednesday: She's running for Senate in California.

The first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company made the announcement at an event in conservative Orange County, pledging that her focus will be on "economic recovery and fiscal accountability"

"The decisions made in Washington impact every family and every business, of any size, in America. Throughout my career, I've brought people together and solved problems, and that is what I plan to do in government: Set aside ego and partisanship and work to develop solutions to our problems," she told supporters.

"I will not settle for a jobless recovery, and we must start the important work of getting our financial house back in order," Fiorina added. "Washington must show discipline to cut spending and create policies that encourage and empower businesses and put people back to work."

Fiorina, considered to be a moderate Republican with little history on social issues, will face off against conservative California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore for the GOP nomination.

In a friendly statement Wednesday, DeVore said he looks forward "to engaging [her] on the issues Californians care about."

A recent Field poll suggested that both Fiorina and DeVore polled at about 20 percent, with 60 percent of Republican voters undecided.

The ex-Fortune 500 CEO, who left Hewlett-Packard in 2005 with a severance package estimated to be worth between $21.5 million and $40 million, is expected to enjoy a significant financial advantage over DeVore, who entered October with just $144,000 in the bank.

The Fiorina-DeVore matchup has all the makings of another Republican battle between the conservative wing of the party and national leaders seeking the most electable candidate.

Fiorina has claimed that the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing her bid, though an NRSC spokesman said no official endorsement has been made. Still, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn pointed to Fiorina in September as an example of a "strong female candidate" running as a Republican in 2010.

A string of conservative bloggers have lined up behind DeVore, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint said Tuesday that he was backing the assemblyman.

The winner of that race will face three-term Sen. Barbara Boxer in November. Boxer's favorable rating stood at 48 percent in a recent Field poll, a number that gives Republicans hope she is vulnerable against a well-funded opponent.

Boxer is known to be a formidable political opponent, but Fiorina said Wednesday that she's ready for the challenge.

"After chemothereapy, Barbara Boxer just really isn't that scary any more, especially when you know what to expect," said Fiorina, who battled breast cancer last spring. "She has always taken the low road to high office."

Though spending most of her life outside of politics, Fiorina is no stranger to the campaign trail, having served as one of then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain's chief surrogates in 2008.

Fiorina was eventually sidelined from that campaign after telling an interviewer that she didn't think either member of the GOP presidential ticket was qualified to run a major company.

In an election season in which the state's economic condition is set to dominate the debate, Fiorina is now the second high-profile former CEO running for statewide office in California. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman announced last month she is running for governor.

National Democrats, meanwhile, appear eager to take on Fiorina, who left Hewlett-Packard five years ago amid controversy.

"The hallmark of Carly Fiorina's résumé is her tenure at Hewlett-Packard, where she laid off 28,000 Americans while shipping jobs overseas, just before taking a $21 million golden parachute," National Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Eric Schultz said. "Given that record, the United States Senate is the last place Carly Fiorina should go next."