GOP's Whitman, Fiorina lose California elections

Despite dizzying campaign spending, double-digit California unemployment, and an anti-incumbent sentiment, ex-CEOs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina couldn't dislodge their Democratic rivals.

Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, two ex-Silicon Valley executives who pledged to use their business acumen to fix California's many economic woes, today fell short in their bids to overcome their Democratic rivals.

Despite widespread anti-incumbent sentiment and a California unemployment rate hovering around 12 percent to 13 percent, Whitman and Fiorina failed to overcome their Democratic adversaries: onetime Gov. Jerry Brown, who sought to reclaim his old job, and incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, who has been in the U.S. Congress for approximately 28 years.

California polls closed at 8 p.m. PT. But it can take a few hours for county elections officials to send results to the California Secretary of State. (See our sister site CBSNews.com's Campaign 2010 special report.)

There were few immediate complaints about election-night irregularities and electronic voting machines. One report from Los Angeles said that Spanish-speaking households received letters saying, incorrectly, that Election Day is tomorrow, and District of Columbia election officials said that a voter had tried to use a "write-in hand stamp on a touch screen" machine.

The apparent defeat of the two Republican women made California a rare bright spot for Democrats as they faced the prospect of a Congress that will now be tilting heavily toward GOP priorities.

Preliminary exit poll results indicated that that the economy was by far the most pressing issue on voters' minds: more than 62 percent cited it as the most important topic. And 88 percent thought the economy was in bad shape. (According to an alternative method of arriving at those figures, the number of unemployed, discouraged, or marginally attached Americans has roughly doubled in the last two years and is now at a recent record of about 22 percent.)

Whitman is estimated to have spent a record $141 million of her own money, including more than $80 million to defeat California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the primary election. That's only a small fraction of her eBay-derived fortune: Forbes has estimated her net worth to be closer to $1.3 billion.

California's gubernatorial campaign took a few dizzying turns in the last month, including when Whitman was accused of hiring an illegal alien as a housekeeper, a flap that highlighted her claim to be "tough as nails" on illegal immigration. And Brown or one of his associates was caught on tape referring to Whitman as a "whore."

After joining eBay in March 1998, Whitman successfully navigated the company through the dot-com boom and bust and on to near cult-like popularity in what became known as the "eBay economy." She departed in 2008, saying that no CEO should stay longer than 10 years, leaving eBay to face stiff competition from Amazon.com and criticism for having bought Skype and then selling it at a loss.

In the case of HP, the board asked Fiorina to step down in February 2005. (Board members claimed at the time that the unceremonious departure was due the poor execution of HP's acquisition of Compaq three years earlier, not the notion that adding Compaq's hefty PC and server market share to HP's high-end servers and printers could make the company a global hardware powerhouse.)

After her HP departure, Fiorina began to spend more time in political circles, including stumping for Republican presidential nominee John McCain, reportedly flirting with the idea of running for lieutenant governor, and publicly entering national politics by speaking at the 2008 Republican Party convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Update on November 3 at 6:43 a.m. PT: By daybreak, the numbers had solidified: In the governor's race, Brown had 54 percent of the vote to Whitman's 41 percent, while in the Senate contest, Boxer had 52 percent to Fiorina's 43 percent.

 

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