Sen. Barbara Boxer greets supporters at a Riverside restaurant after filing… (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles…)
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer formally filed for reelection Thursday, a move that kicked off a challenging battle for the three-term Democrat amid a national backlash against incumbents and the party controlling the White House and Congress.
"I only have one goal, to get California back on track by creating jobs and making life better for the people that I represent. That is what I have always done, and that is what I will always do," Boxer said at the Riverside County Registrar of Voters' office. "It will be tough, regardless of who my eventual opponent will be, but we're ready, and we're excited."
Boxer, 69, filed her paperwork in Riverside County because she moved from the Bay Area to Rancho Mirage in 2006. Afterward, she greeted supporters at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
"If you help me . . . nothing's going to stop us on Nov. 7, no matter what the pundits are predicting," Boxer told them.
An underdog in her first Senate race, she acknowledged that this contest comes at a dicey time for Democratic incumbents. Bad news has become commonplace for the party, from last month's election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to fill the Senate seat once held by Edward Kennedy and this week's announcement by Sen. Evan Bayh, a Democrat from Indiana, that he was retiring.
At the same time, Boxer's Republican opponents are receiving national exposure and dollars in their quest to unseat her.
Orange County Assemblyman Chuck DeVore has recently been heralded by conservative icons Glenn Beck and George F. Will; national party leaders are raising funds for multimillionaire businesswoman Carly Fiorina in Washington next week, and former Rep. Tom Campbell, who joined the race in January, had a strong first month of fundraising.
Each GOP nominee would present a unique set of challenges, but the Boxer campaign seems particularly vexed by Fiorina's wealth. The former Hewlett-Packard chief has already lent her campaign $2.5 million, and has the second largest amount of cash on hand in the race after Boxer's $7.2 million, as of the beginning of the year.
"With one stroke of the pen, she could have more money than we have in the bank," said Boxer's campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski. She anticipates that Boxer will need to raise at least $25 million, and several million more if Fiorina is the Republican nominee.
Recent polls show Boxer beating all three of them, if barely. The senator warned against counting her out.
"I've won 10 times in a row, and many of those races were very difficult and the pundits said Barbara Boxer will never win, and she doesn't have chance," she said. "We put together a great campaign."
Although her campaign won't start in earnest for months, Boxer can use the power of her office to reach voters. On Friday, for example, Boxer will hold a news conference and town meeting in Los Angeles with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to highlight jobs created by the stimulus package.
That's one perk that comes with incumbency, and one that should not be underestimated, said Mark Petracca, chairman of the political science department at UC Irvine.
"At the end of day, it's hard to beat an incumbent. The Republican Party for years has said she's the easier of the two U.S. senators to beat, but they haven't been able to do it," he said. "By positioning herself as a U.S. senator under threat, that will help mobilize some troops."