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The Republican race to challenge liberal stalwart Barbara Boxer for her U.S. Senate seat next year is shaping up as a likely contest between a socially conservative state lawmaker and a former Silicon Valley chief executive whose views are barely known to GOP voters in the state.
Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive and John McCain confidante, is not yet an official candidate, but she has registered a campaign committee, "Carly for California," and her team had a strong presence at this weekend's statewide party convention at a desert resort near Palm Spring.
Fiorina, who is in the final stages of treatment for breast cancer, did not attend.
Miller said Fiorina, 54, has no timeline for an official announcement. She did kick off a new Web site this week that certainly appears to point to a run. The site received less than stellar reviews as did her catch phrase: Carlyfornia Dreamin.
She brings with her a big bank account and wealthy Silicon Valley friends, although it is unclear how much of her own money she intends to spend.
"There's one thing all Republicans are united behind, and that's getting rid of Barbara Boxer," said Beth Miller, a spokeswoman for Fiorina. "Barbara Boxer is a menace and needs to go. She is not good for California."
Boxer, a Democrat who has been a leading voice on women's issues, is in her third term in the Senate and easily won re-election in 1998 and 2004, but has never faced a female opponent in the general election.
Her GOP rival, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine, a military officer and businessman who has already spent months working to secure the party's base, told delegates Sunday that he is eager to have the competition, but now is not the time to go with a political neophyte.
"We don't know where she stands on a lot of issues," said DeVore, 47. "We do know: She supported the bailout; I didn't. She supported aspects of the stimulus. I have been vociferously opposed to it."
"Now is the time to go with principle, now is the time to go with tested," he said.
Still, DeVore's critique was relatively gentle. He said recent polls show them virtually even in a theoretical match up against Boxer.
Republicans have long targeted the liberal senator and hope the seat is more vulnerable this year as they seek to capitalize on anti-tax protests and growing national conservative anger over President Barack Obama's health care proposals in 2010.