HUGHSON -- U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina vowed Wednesday to boost the San Joaquin Valley's water supply while easing taxes and regulation.
"I know what it takes to create a job and make a payroll," the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive told about 70 supporters at Duarte Nursery.
The event was held by the California Farm Bureau Federation, which endorsed Fiorina earlier in the day. She is running in the June 8 Republican primary for a chance to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November.
Fiorina said she would work to reverse the severe irrigation cutbacks imposed by the federal government in parts of the west and south valley. They came about because of drought and protections for fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
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Fiorina called for reduced income tax rates, a tax break for small businesses that hire unemployed people and an end to the estate tax, which is scheduled to rise sharply in 2011.
"We are punishing success," she said. "We are making it very difficult for families to pass on their family farms, their successful businesses, to the next generation."
Fiorina said Duarte Nursery, a leading producer of trees and vines for commercial growers, is an example of the family-owned businesses she would like to foster.
"The federal government does not create the American dream that I have lived and that others have lived, although the federal government can surely kill the American dream," she said.
Nursery President John Duarte said he likes Fiorina's stance on the water shortage, which has put people out of work, and the estate tax. He's a regular Republican donor who has been host for a number of GOP candidates over the years.
"I can't talk about any of these issues with Barbara Boxer," he said. "She is the No. 1-rated liberal in the Senate."
The farm bureau endorsement brought a prompt response from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is working on races across the nation.
It noted that Hewlett-Packard fired Fiorina in 2005 after massive layoffs and a failed merger by the high-tech giant. The committee claimed that she opposed programs in the 2008 farm bill that benefit the state's farmers.
"Voters should know Carly Fiorina is anything but a friend to California's farm industry," said Deirdre Murphy, national press secretary for the committee, in a news release.
Fiorina is vying for the GOP nod with former San Jose-area Rep. Tom Campbell and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine.
Her stop in Hughson completed a daylong tour that included farm audiences in Shafter, Clovis and Salinas.
The endorsement came after Fiorina met with state farm bureau leaders, including President Paul Wenger, a Modesto-area nut grower.
Wenger said he liked Fiorina's willingness to boost the farm labor supply via immigration reform and to work with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the water issue.
"We are looking for game-changers and people who can really make a difference," Wenger said.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.