Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced her candidacy for president on Monday, becoming the first declared female candidate to seek the Republican Party’s nomination.
“Yes, I am running,” Fiorina told ABC’s “Good Morning America”.
The ex-Silicon Valley executive and long-shot White House contender has never held public office. In 2010, she unsuccessfully ran for Senate in California, losing to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.
She is now one of only a few women ever to seek the Republican Party’s nomination for president — among them, former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who was a candidate in 2012, and former North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who made a brief run in the 2000 cycle.
Fiorina has been laying the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign over the past few months, traveling to early states like Iowa and New Hampshire and meeting with activists and donors.
Casting herself as an outside-the-beltway candidate with years of private sector experience, she has been particularly critical of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her work in government.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in the suburbs of Washington earlier this year, Fiorina rallied the crowd, saying, “Like Mrs. Clinton, I too have traveled the globe. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, I know that flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.”
Standing out in what is expected to be a crowded Republican field that includes far better-known candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, will be a significant challenge for Fiorina.
But political strategists say Fiorina, an articulate communicator and energetic retail politician, could very well have a moment in the race, particularly as she makes an appeal to voters who are drawn to a non-establishment candidate.
Fiorina could also be a galvanizing force in an election where on the other side of the political aisle, Clinton — the widely presumed Democratic frontrunner — has indicated that she plans to make gender issues one of the central themes of her campaign.
Marty Wilson, an executive vice president at the California Chamber of Commerce who managed Fiorina’s 2010 Senate campaign, said one potential obstacle for Fiorina will be building up a national donor base when she hasn’t had to raise money for a political campaign since 2010.
“She’s a very talented candidate and connects well with voters,” Wilson said. “The problem is after 2010, she was no longer a candidate. So mail lists and email lists tend to atrophy when they’re not in use.”
Fiorina has recruited veteran political strategists to help run her campaign.
In February, Fiorina supporters announced the establishment of Carly For America, a super PAC to support her eventually potential presidential campaign. Fiorina has enlisted Steve DeMaura, the former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, to be the super PAC’s executive director.
Earlier this year, Fiorina also hired the Republican National Committee’s former deputy communications director, Sarah Isgur Flores, to help run Unlocking Potential, a political action committee aimed at outreach to female voters. Isgur Flores is expected to take on the role of deputy campaign manager.
Fiorina is best known for her time at HP, a company she led from 1999 to 2005. Her controversial tenure at the firm gave Boxer plenty of political ammunition in the 2010 race, and the issue could once again emerge a vulnerability for Fiorina in her campaign for president.
As CEO, Fiorina spearheaded a divisive merger with Compaq as she sought to rebrand the firm and boost its relevance in the tech world. Some HP employees were unhappy with Fiorina’s leadership style and what they said was a lack of engagement with colleagues, and members of the Hewlett and Packard families have been openly critical of her role at the company.
But Fiorina continues to defend her time at HP. As CEO of a major corporation, she says, she gained critical executive skills that would serve her well in the White House.
“HP requires executive decision-making, and the presidency is all about executive decision-making,” Fiorina told CNN in February.