Boxer, 69, is an 18-year veteran of the Senate and chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees energy interests. Fiorina, 56, hails from the business world, having served as chief executive officer of the Palo Alto, California-based technology company Hewlett-Packard Co.
The AP called the race as Boxer took a lead of 48 percent to 46 percent, with 15 percent of precincts reporting.
Boxer held off Fiorina amid a wave of voter discontent with incumbents and the state’s economic slump. California’s 12.4 percent unemployment rate is the third-worst in the nation.
Boxer is used to tight races, said Linda Fowler, a government professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. “She’s a very tough, relentless campaigner,” Fowler said.
While Boxer built up a cash advantage over Fiorina, she faced an onslaught of advertising from outside groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business lobby. They poured millions of dollars into the race, saying Boxer failed to spur job growth and tagging her for supporting policies such as the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul legislation.
Boxer’s campaign, in turn, tried to paint Fiorina as a failed businesswoman. Last week, the campaign forwarded an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle from two grandsons of the founders of Hewlett-Packard who said Fiorina “nearly destroyed a great company” during her tenure.
Boxer may have gotten the most help from female voters turned off by positions Fiorina took on social issues including abortion and gay marriage during the Republican primary, Fowler said.
Fiorina earned endorsements from several groups that oppose abortion rights and gay marriage, instead supporting civil unions. Boxer is a leading advocate of abortion rights and supports gay marriage.
Even in an anti-incumbent year, California is one of the most Democratic-leaning states.
“Republicans thought they would have a better shot at the women’s vote with Carly Fiorina,” Fowler said. “Fiorina got pushed too far to the right.”
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