LOS ANGELES (CBS 5/AP) — Democrat Barbara Boxer won her fourth term to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday night, dashing GOP hopes of removing the liberal icon with a strong challenge from former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive Carly Fiorina.
The campaign was a difficult one as the 69-year-old found herself defending Democratic attempts to turn around the struggling economy. It was her 11th consecutive political victory.
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this victory after the toughest and roughest campaign of my life,” Boxer told supporters as she declared victory at an election-night party in Hollywood.
Minutes earlier, Fiorina, noting fewer than half the ballots had been counted and the race was still close, refused to concede.
Carly Fiorina Audio Clip:
“This is going to be a long night,” she said. “Just get prepared. We might not know for many, many more hours.”
During the campaign, Fiorina had blamed Boxer and her fellow Democrats for failed economic policies she said had kept the country in recession. But Boxer turned the tables and said Fiorina represented a return to Republican policies from the past that had created the recession.
She also painted Fiorina as too extreme for most California voters on issues ranging from abortion to gun control.
Fiorina, a multimillionaire, was aided by a wave of attack ads funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and groups opposing abortion, gay marriage and gun controls.
To help counter the challenge, Boxer received several visits from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
She always said the race would be close but never wavered in her confidence that voters would return her to Washington.
At the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, where hundreds of Boxer’s supporters had gathered for a victory party, a loud cheer went up when her name was flashed on a giant screen as the race’s projected winner.
The crowd waved yellow “Boxer 2010” and “Viva Boxer” signs while swaying to a salsa band that performed “Victory, Victoria.”
At Fiorina’s election-night party in Irvine, retired firefighter Randy Burtt, 58, of Norco, dropped his head and shook it from side to side when he had heard Boxer had won.
He said her re-election would mean “more of the same, more bureaucracy, more government and less in your pocket.”
At the polls on Tuesday, voters often sounded like the candidates had while they were on the campaign trail.
“Barbara Boxer has been there too long and hasn’t done enough for me to want to keep her there,” said Kayla Tarbet, 25, of Long Beach.
Meanwhile, David Tapia, a television casting director from Glendale, focused on Hewlett-Packard’s expansion overseas while laying off workers in the U.S.
“Sending jobs out of this country is something I feel strongly about and it really hits the American people,” said Tapia, 37. “For some of us struggling to find employment, it’s really hard.”
The momentum Republicans had generated around the country in their attempt to win back the House and Senate added to the drama of the California race, even as polls shortly before Election Day showed Boxer with a slight edge.
Fiorina, 56, had targeted the state’s independents—who represent about one in five voters—as well as centrist Democrats, hoping her message of economic renewal through private-sector job creation would resonate with swing voters.
She had to broaden her appeal, as all Republicans running statewide in California must do, because of the 13-point voter registration edge held by Democrats. Ultimately, it was not enough, as Boxer rallied union members and other core Democratic supporters.
During the campaign, Boxer consistently attacked Fiorina’s tenure at Hewlett-Packard, saying she was responsible for laying off 30,000 workers and sending jobs to China and India. That put Fiorina on the defensive for much of the campaign, undermining her message that she was best-suited to boosting private-sector jobs.
Boxer also drew on Fiorina’s opposition to abortion and more extensive gun control laws, as well as her opposition to a permanent moratorium on offshore oil drilling, as examples of the businesswoman holding views that were out of step with mainstream Californians.
Fiorina, Boxer had said, “walks in that far right lane.”
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