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Former heads of HP and eBay win California primaries

Ink baroness and tat reseller get Republican nods

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Former Silicon Valley empresses Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina won the Republican nominations for California's Governor and one of its Senate seats overnight.

Whitman, ex-chief executive of eBay, will bid to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger, while ex-HP boss Fiorina will go head-to-head with incumbent Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer. Both elections willl be held on 2 November.

The dotcom billionairess beat gubernatorial nomination rival Steve Poizner by 64 per cent to 26 per cent.

Their race was notable for a criminal complaint by Poizner alleging Whitman's campaign tried to bully him into standing aside. The claim drew mischievous statements from the Whitman camp doubting the sanity of Poizner, the California Insurance Commissioner. Both candidates sank millions of their own dollars into their campaigns.

It confirms a rapid rise to mainstream prominence for Whitman, a political novice who quit eBay in early 2008 after 10 years in which she led it to become the web's dominant tat bazaar.

Fiorina, another newcomer to politics, defeated her closest challenger, Tom Campbell, by 54 per cent to 24 per cent.

Campbell was backed by the Republican right and conservative Tea Party activists, but Fiorina was a clear favourite. Indeed she has already begun attacking her Democratic target with a series of TV ads touting her credentials as "Battle-Tested Conservative Republican" (her emphasis).

Fiorina's battles at HP led to her being ousted from by the board in 2005 following failures on the integration of Compaq and a bad bet on Intel's Itanium server chips. More recently she successfully battled breast cancer.

Both women's views mean they will have to look mostly outside Silicon Valley - where orthodoxy tends to the liberal and Democratic end of US politics - for support in November's elections. ®

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