What’s at Stake in California’s Senatorial Race?

Your Call continues our special California election series by focusing on the race for the U.S. Senate seat between Democrat Barbara Boxer and Republican Carly Fiorina.

Listen to Your Call with Rose Aguilar: What’s at Stake in California’s Senatorial Race?

Barbara Boxer was first elected to the Senate in 1992 after serving 10 years in the House of Representatives. Senator Boxer chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Ethics Committee, and serves on the Senate Commerce and Foreign Relations Committees. She’s currently running for her fourth term.

This is the first time Carly Fiorina is running for political office. In 2008, she served as Victory Chairman for the McCain/Palin 2008 presidential ticket. After rising through the ranks of AT&T and Lucent Technologies, she became the CEO of Hewlett Packard in 1999. Fiorina was forced out by the company’s board six years later after the controversial Compaq merger failed to produce the shareholder returns or profits that she had promised.

This race has largely been overshadowed by California’s gubernatorial race even though there’s obviously a lot at stake and the candidates are polar opposites on just about every major issue except for Israel and Palestine.

“You probably couldn’t get a clearer choice in any election,” says San Francisco Chronicle Washington bureau reporter Carolyn Lochhead. “Fiorina has surprised political analysts for not shifting to the center on social issues. Boxer’s trying to focus on the social issues; Fiorina on the economic ones.”

During Fiorina’s GOP Senate primary, she said she “absolutely would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.” In a May appearance on Dennis Prager’s conservative radio show, she said, “In fact, I am proudly pro-life.”

Unlike most Democrats, Senator Boxer has defended her support for abortion throughout her campaign, but the national media have largely ignored this issue. “Make no mistake about it, a women’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,” she said at a recently rally with pro-choice advocates.

Boxer and Fiorina are also diametrically opposed on other major issues, including gay marriage and LGBT rights, offshore oil drilling, global warming, and tax cuts for the wealthy. According to a recent LA Times piece, Fiorina often says she had to outsource almost 30,000 jobs because California has a business-hostile tax structure, but during her reign at Hewlett Packard, the company benefited from state tax breaks.

On Your Call, we’ll discuss these issues and more, and we’ll find out who’s funding the Boxer and Fiorina campaigns.


Carolyn Lochhead, Washington bureau reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, and writes the “Below the Beltway” blog

Barbara O’Connor, political communications professor and director at the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State

Rose Aguilar is the host of “Your Call,” a daily call-in radio show on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco and on KUSP 88.9 FM in Santa Cruz. She is author of “Red Highways: A Liberal’s Journey Into the Heartland.”