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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Carly For California

"Only in America can my story be told." So begins Carly Fiorina's brief telling of that story. Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear that story first hand, as well as tell my own story of a mortgage broker trying to help Americans buy homes and manage their mortgages in 2010. Along with about thirty other real estate professionals, most from Orange County, I attended a round(table) lunch in the warehouse of a sign making company. There was no table as we sat in a circle on folding chairs eating box lunches on our laps. It was a perfect setting to discuss government regulations, government wasteful spending, the need to tighten belts in Washington as we have done in our industry and to listen to someone experienced in managing multi-billion dollar budgets and creating efficiencies in service and spending.

As I write this I realize the irony of a bunch of people in real estate coming together to air complaints and problems in the industry, many of the problems the result of solutions provided via government legislation. The most basic problem of course being the industry itself from the mid-2000's through 2007 as a housing boom was fed and price bubbles created and expanded. Almost every industry represented in the room, real estate agents, lenders, attorneys, escrow companies, appraisers, also had representatives guilty of bad ethics, bad business and bad greed that fed and fed the boom and bubble.

Those who were in the room however are the survivors of the recent market meltdowns, and have survived previous market downturns. Listening and looking around the room my guess is that the average experience in the industry was over fifteen years. Still in the business, the group is working hard for their individual businesses and clients to continue to help Americans fulfill the American Dream of homeownership. We were there to relay our stories of how our industries were being impacted in the current market. In Carly Fiorina, candiate for U.S. Senate, we found an active listener.

She attended Stanford University working her way through as a Kelly Girl, for younger readers that means she was an office temp. She worked in a beauty parlor helping with phones and the books. Upon getting a degree in Medieval History "I was unemployable, so I went to law school." Moving south to UCLA for law school Fiorina dropped out after one year--the law was not for her. She took a job as a receptionist/secretary/girl Friday for a small company known at the time as Marcus and Millichap. While there she began to learn about business and how things worked in the private sector.

Cutting her story short Fiorina said, "after teaching English in Italy for a while, getting an MBA, I became as a woman the CEO of a company worth $80 billion when I left. Now I am running for the United States Senate. Only in America is this story possible and able to be told."

Fiorina told us that she understands that most good solutions to a problem are known by those closest to the problem, and the politicians and bureaucracies of the Federal government in Washington are far removed from any problem. "Their cure is often worse than the disease." Something else Fiorina knows about having gone through chemotherapy and losing all her hair in a battle with breast cancer last year.

Regarding government waste and fraud Fiorina told of being assigned to manage a department and to cut expenses. She started with the bills being paid and quickly found problem after problem. "A billion dollar department was wasting over $100 million in bad billing. The bigger the number the bigger the waste." She knows that a billion dollars of federal money cannot be fully accounted for, it is too much and as a result millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions are lost to fraud and waste. Fiorina cited that fifty percent of government issued credit card bills contain personal and fraudulent spending--and there is little to nothing being done.

"Grow the economy," she said holding up a finger, "and cut spending" as she thrust up the second finger. "Our deficit is growing and we are trillions of dollars in debt. The solution to the problem is not to spend more money. The solution is to grow the economy and stop spending." Fiorina recognizes that the government cannot create jobs without taking money from working Americans, which costs jobs in the private sector.

Listening to Carly Fiorina speak about fiscal policy, watching her as she listened to small business owners and independent contractors detail their difficulties in helping families purchase or sell homes, hearing the questions she asks and comments she interjects, I have little doubt that Fiorina will be a capable Senator representing the people of California.

Facing off in the Republican Primary with Fiorina is Tom Campbell. Campbell has had a strong political career and made a name for himself as a strong fiscal conservative and fighting wasteful spending and expansion of government. Campbell recently dropped out of the race for Governor because the other two Republicans in that race, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, are prepped for multi-million dollar campaigns using mostly their own money--the race is too rich for Campbell. Running against Fiorina for the Republican nomination, Campbell figures he would rather take on one wealthy opponent instead of two.

I like the career Tom Campbell has put together, considered a moderate Republican due to his position on social issues (he voted no on Prop 8) and conservative on fiscal and economic matters. I was sorry to see him drop out of the Governor's race as it would be my preference for him to fill that position. Against Fiorina in the Senate race however I am not as sure. Given the funding and usual support that Senator Boxer will get in the coming election, I feel the best chance to defeat her will be someone with more star power and funding than Campbell may bring to the table.

Fiorina's opponent, should she win the Republican Primary, is Senator Barbara Boxer. Boxer has been in Washington as a member of Congress since 1982 and joined the Senate in 1992. She will have a deep warchest built up over decades of service to her constituents in labor and government. She is entrenched in herself as a Senator and the arrogance that often goes with it. Boxer is as far removed from Californians as I am from the Senate Cloakroom. She is part of the problem in Washington, particularly with the current majority, of not listening to the people she represents, of not worrying about future consequences of current spending and being more concerned with being a Senator and than being a representative of the people of California.

Fiorina, or Campbell, has a pretty big wall to climb running against an incumbent Democrat in California, a state that has overwhelming re-elected Senators Boxer and Feinstein in their past re-election bids, a state that overwhelming has voted Democrat for President in the past five elections. But they have a chance. Boxer's approval ratings are falling and polling is showing she is vulnerable to an upset. As the race heats up the Republican nominee can expect support from across the country if polling numbers continue to show a chance.

I support Carly Fiorina in her race for the Republican Primary as I believe in her experience and intellect. I believe she can make a difference in Washington. And I believe she can defeat Barbara Boxer in November. I hope you join me in this support.


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