Who Is Carly Fiorina? Four Things To Know About Cruz's VP Pick

Photo: CNBC/Getty Images.
In her decades-long career, Carly Fiorina has worn many hats — rising from secretary to Fortune 20 CEO, then launching her bid to represent California as a Republican senator in one of the nation's bluest states. She launched her own campaign for the nation's highest office, and now, she is aiming for the White House again, this time as a vice presidential candidate.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced last week that Fiorina will be his pick for the VP slot if he wins the nomination.

Fiorina, 61, spent years at the helm of Hewlett-Packard before throwing her hat in the political ring with her unsuccessful run against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010. She launched her own presidential campaign online in May 2015. Despite being the only woman in a crowded field, Fiorina struggled to attract support in early states. She suspended her campaign in March and endorsed Cruz shortly after.

Ahead, some elements about Fiorina's background that might surprise you.

She Shattered A Glass Ceiling In The Business World
Fiorina made history when she was named CEO of Hewlett-Packard, becoming the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company. Her path to that perch was an interesting one. Fiorina, born Cara Carleton Sneed, was the daughter of a prominent law professor turned judge and an artist. She moved frequently as a child, attending schools in the United States, England, and Ghana.

She says she worked as a receptionist and secretary during her summers while studying at Stanford. Business wasn't her initial aim, though. She briefly attended law school before getting an MBA from the University of Maryland. Fiorina also entertained a dream of becoming a classical pianist and took a gig teaching English abroad before starting on the corporate path.

But Fiorina's reign at Hewlett-Packard was far from rosy. She oversaw a major acquisition that was was widely seen as a flop, and tens of thousands of workers were laid off.

Advertisement
She often mentions her career and background in business on the campaign trail — and Cruz even praised her experience when he announced her as his VP pick. But Fiorina's reign at Hewlett-Packard was far from rosy. She oversaw a major acquisition that was widely seen as a flop, and tens of thousands of workers were laid off.

She was eventually ousted — and given a large compensation send-off that became the subject of scrutiny. Fiorina argues that her actions doubled the size of the company (a claim that PolitiFact has rated "mostly true," in a technical sense). Even with the controversy surrounding her tenure, Fiorina is quick to highlight the challenges she faced as a woman breaking into the corporate world — and encourage women to follow her path.

In one 2005 commencement speech, she recounted being called the "token bimbo" at an early job with AT&T. "You can spend a lifetime resenting the tests, angry about the slights and the injustices. Or you can rise above it," she told the graduates.

My husband and I buried a child to drug addiction. We must invest in the treatment of drugs.

Carly Fiorina
She's A Survivor
And not just in the political sense. Fiorina was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, shortly before she entered the race for U.S. Senate in California. She underwent treatment throughout the campaign and was even hospitalized because of an infection related to surgery days before the November election. That didn't stop her from squeezing in some final stops on the campaign trail.

She's since talked about how the experience motivated her throughout the campaign. “As any survivor knows, going through an experience like fighting cancer is transformative, although not altogether negative,” she wrote in her book, Rising To The Challenge. “Suddenly, for me, running for the Senate was no longer just a cold calculation of the odds of beating Barbara Boxer. It was a rare chance to change the order of things for the better.”

Cancer wasn't the only personal challenge Fiorina and her husband faced in 2009. Her stepdaughter Lori died that year at age 35, following a long struggle with drugs and alcohol. Fiorina cites that experience as informing her commitment to addressing addiction. "My husband and I buried a child to drug addiction," she said during one of last year's GOP debates. "We must invest in the treatment of drugs."

"You can spend a lifetime resenting the tests, angry about the slights and the injustices. Or you can rise above it."

Carly Fiorina
Her Views Are Conservative
Many of Fiorina's positions align with other GOP candidates — as PBS explains, she opposes abortion in most cases (and wants to see Roe v. Wade reversed), is a supporter of gun rights, and has called for an overhaul of the tax code. She also disagrees with the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage and wants to see the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) overturned.

On immigration, she's supported efforts to help educate undocumented students and called for a fix to the country's immigration system, but opposes extending citizenship to people who are living in the United States illegally.

She says she believes "equal pay for equal work is absolutely required," but doesn't think the government should do more to raise women's wages. "[We] have laws on the books today that ban gender discrimination, and if a woman is being discriminated against because of her gender, she should use the full extent of that law," she wrote in a Facebook post, adding, "It is also clear, however, that the single greatest impediment to equal pay for equal work is the seniority system, which pays, not on merit and not on performance, but on time and grade. We don’t need increased regulation to address this issue; we need flexibility for employers."

Her Campaign Was Responsible For One Of The Weirdest Ads, Ever
In early 2010, Fiorina was locked in a three-way fight for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate.

Trailing fellow Republican Tom Campbell in the polls, Fiorina's team brought on ad man Fred Davis, known for that "Celebrity" ad comparing then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to Paris Hilton back in 2008, to develop a campaign spot that would grab the attention of voters.

And grab attention it did — far beyond California.

Why? The infamous "Demon Sheep." The ad, which opens with pastoral landscapes, uses a bizarre sheep-suited man with red light-up eyes to hit Campbell as a faux conservative (i.e., a wolf in sheep's clothing). You can watch for yourself, below.
Advertisement
Advertisement