U.S. Senate candidate and former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina made her name in Silicon Valley. On Thursday, she worked to prove her street cred in the San Joaquin Valley, talking water and ag issues at the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau in Modesto.
Fiorina is mounting a challenge against Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer. She'll face Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, in June's Republican primary.
Fiorina, 55, who presided over a controversial merger with Compaq, left Hewlett-Packard with an estimated $42 million severance package. She called herself a product of "the American dream."
But she said that dream is endangered by burdensome government regulations and too many taxes. The struggles of San Joaquin Valley farmers are a prime example of too much meddling from "professional politicians," Fiorina said.
"A two-inch fish called a smelt has more respect from Barbara Boxer than 43,000 people who are out of work," said Fiorina, to a round of applause. Fiorina pledged to undo the government decision to cut off water to valley farmers to protect the endangered delta smelt.
After a few minutes of opening remarks, Fiorina asked for questions and ideas from the audience.
"I was impressed with the fact that she was letting the valley have a voice," said Ray Prock, the Farm Bureau secretary. "She didn't talk at us," Prock said, "she let us talk, too."
Retired Burchell Nursery sales representative Ladd Hackler called Fiorina a "breath of fresh air" who reminds him of Sarah Palin.
But he noted that Fiorina was preaching to the choir at the Farm Bureau talk. Hackler said he doubted her pro-agriculture message would play well in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
"There are too many do-gooders for the fish, and there's plenty of food at the store," Hackler said, meaning that city dwellers often are ignorant about where their food comes from. "There's a disconnect. People who live there don't understand ag and why we need water."
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2378.