Chuck DeVore, a California assemblyman seeking to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, on Thursday blasted his potential rival for the Republican nomination, Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, as a “dilettante” and “rich moderate” who couldn’t win statewide.
He also contended that Boxer was vulnerable in a general election due to her high negatives and rising unemployment.
“Never in California’s history has a self-funded dilettante ever won any top office, Governor or Senate,” the candidate said this morning at a breakfast sponsored by TAS and Americans for Tax Reform, when asked about a potential primary challenge from Fiorina. DeVore pointedly told attendees that Fiorina was fired from Hewlett Packard and from the McCain campaign for making several gaffes. He criticized her for supporting the financial bailout and said her views on most policy issues were unknown. Moreover, he questioned whether Fiorina’s wealth, which he estimated at around $40 million, would even allow her to self-fund in a state such as California, with a population of 37 million and many expensive media markets. He also took issue with Sen. John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for “already making up his mind” to support Fiorina, even though she hasn’t declared her candidacy.
DeVore described himself as a movement conservative with a libertarian streak on issues concerning civil liberties and law enforcement. DeVore had previously worked in the aerospace industry for thirteen years, and served in the Defense Department under President Reagan. He has supported off-shore drilling, nuclear power, and allowing the growth of hemp for industrial uses. He emphasized that his campaign would utilize the internet in ways not previously practiced by Republican candidates, pointing to the success of his Barbara Boxer “Dr. Evil” Youtube video as a way of spreading name recognition. He asserted that he was running a grassroots campaign, doubling his email base in the last month. Using the phrase “asymmetric warfare” to describe his tactics, DeVore questioned the value of TV advertising, especially considering that the candidates in the gubernatorial race would flood the airwaves during the same cycle. DeVore reported that he has raised $500,000 with 8,000 contributors, but that only seven of those donors had maxed out. DeVore believes he needs to raise close to $10 million to be competitive. Almost half of his money comes from outside California.
This internet strategy may help to raise money with many donors, but it still seems to fall short with respect to addressing the need to generate name recognition with voters. Both Boxer and Fiorina have name recognition due to previous national exposure. He will likely need to find ways to reach out to lower income voters, and to more socially conservative voters that helped propel the passage of Proposition 8.
If DeVore can raise enough money, he might be able to make this race competitive by playing to his strengths. DeVore pointed out that Boxer has high negative ratings, and is currently taking criticism for going on reading tours of her novel instead of scheduling town halls to discuss healthcare reform. He also noted that unemployment in California is projected to reach 14 percent, and said she’s never had to run in such a bad economic climate. If Boxer and the Democrats continue to alienate Californians, a conservative candidate such as DeVore could have a chance.