“Do You Know the Way to San Jose”, a popular song written for Dionne Warwick by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, undoubtedly helped introduce the county seat of Santa Clara to the world in 1968. Soon, however, the county may boast two new political stars in California, both former heads of highly successful high-tech giants in Silicon Valley.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of technology giant Hewlett-Packard, wants a seat as U.S. senator, a job which pays $174,000 per year. And Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, is running for governor in order to earn $175,000. Fiorina spent some $5 million of her own money to win 54 percent of the vote in the primaries. Whitman spent a record-smashing $71 million of her own money to win 64 percent to defeat Steve Poizner.
How many years in office will it take to recoup just their initial investments? This is a little scary to me, as the ultra-liberal Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown are very adept at spending other people’s money. I can only hope these two Republicans will know more about minding the public’s bottom line than either of those life-long politicians.
Ironically, Poizner was a successful high-tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley before leveraging his corporate background to become State Insurance Commissioner in 2006. Poizner spent $24 million of his own money in his losing effort to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the other hand, as a teacher I was very impressed with Poizner’s involvement with public education. He co-founded EdVoice, an educational non-profit organization to help public schools and K-12 children, served as a volunteer teacher in a high school for one full year, and co-founded the California Charter Schools Association. For most politicians, having gone through the educational system themselves makes most of them think they are experts in how to run a classroom and a school. From all of Whitman’s rhetoric on education, I fear she falls into the latter category.
While Whitman was highly successful with eBay and is now a billionaire, Firorina, a mere millionaire, was fired after only a few years as head of HP for failing to cut costs and boost revenues. While they can both withstand the pay cuts, can they do for a struggling state what only one could accomplish for their private companies?
While Fiorina takes on the firmly entrenched U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Whitman will now face Jerry Brown. Boxer was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, and holds the record for the most popular votes in a statewide contested election in California in 2004. She currently holds the position of Chief Deputy Whip of the Democratic Majority. Jerry Brown is also a career politician, following in his father’s bootsteps. He is a former California Governor and was also Secretary of State. Lately mayor of the City of Oakland, Brown is currently serving as California’s Attorney General.
Fiorina is counting on the fact that California voters are in a current revolt against incumbents. Whitman is counting on the fact that Brown is better known locally as “Governor Moonbeam”. Both Republican candidates are evidently hoping for some sort of backlash against Democrats as the state has gradually gone into an economic cesspool thanks in large part to government excesses and mismanagement, albeit recently by a Republican governor. Both are also willing to spend a lot more of their privately earned dollars to relax in those low-paid public offices.
All things considered, there is only one thing to recommend these women to me: they are not their opponents. Especially in the case of Brown, I have to consider that a good thing.